LETTER TO THE EDITOR: How many of our children have to die?

Fifty years ago — 1968 — a year which shall live in infamy — two of the greatest leaders of our country — Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy — were shot dead with guns.

This was less than five years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and two years after the first modern mass shooting in the United States, by a man with a rifle at the University of Texas. It was clear to any rational person that gun violence was a serious problem for our country, and Congress — which actually functioned in those days — moved to tighten gun sales by restricting mail-order purchases with the Gun Control Act of 1968. It looked like that it might be a turning point in confronting this problem.

But sadly, we soon reversed course and turned in the wrong direction. 1968 is now better understood as a starting point, in which the deaths of those two martyrs to justice and freedom were the first casualties in a new Civil War. It is a stunning and appalling fact that in these past five decades we have suffered more deaths in this country from firearms (over 1.5 mllion) than IN ALL OF OUR WARS COMBINED!

In a very literal sense, we have been at war with ourselves for a half-century, and, thanks to the National Rifle Association and its enablers, the Republican Party, there is no end in sight, even though we are now regularly killing our children and grandchildren. We have failed our kids by not taking the steps to ensure that they are growing up in a country where they can feel safe and secure, and focusing on the things that kids should be able to focus on — learning, living, growing and preparing for their future.

It is simply insane that we live in virtually the only country in the world where military-style weapons of war, such as the AR-15, (and even more insanely, high capacity ammunition clips) are easily available for purchase, including to 18 or 19 year-old boys who can’t legally purchase a bottle of beer. It is simply insane that the president of the United States, who is as much a pawn of the NRA as he is the Russian government, suggests that the answer to school shootings is to purchase more guns and put them in the schools.

It is simply insane that there are not full and complete background checks for ALL gun sales. It should also be quite embarrassing to anyone over 21 that high-school-age kids are now speaking more eloquently and sensibly about this issue than any of our so-called leaders.

It did not have to be this way — and we can still take steps to stop the carnage of our modern Civil War. Gov. Carney is absolutely correct to propose a ban on the sale of assault-style military rifles in our state. Our General Assembly and Congress should also take other steps to protect us from needless violent death.

The Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to protect our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness-— the most important of which is obviously LIFE.

Of course, the NRA and most Republicans will argue that any laws to tighten the sale of guns is a violation of the second amendment. This is nonsense.

All of the amendments in the Bill of Rights are subject to some reasonable regulation: the first amendment’s protection of freedom of speech is subject to rules concerning such things as slander, disturbing the peace, shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater, and inciting a riot; our first amendment right to peaceable assembly is often restricted by the requirement to get a parade permit; our fourth amendment rights are routinely restricted every time we go through security at an airport or many buildings.

Why should the second amendment, which unlike any of the others, actually contains the word “regulated,” be any different? Even the Heller opinion of the Supreme Court in 2008, which—for the first time in our history—upheld the right to bear arms as an individual right, said that reasonable regulations of certain kinds of weapons would still be constitutional.

The United States Constitution is not a suicide pact, and it did not outlaw the use of common sense. It is time that we take heed to the voices of wisdom coming from the students in Florida. If we don’t, it will be to our eternal shame.

Daniel Pritchett

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