The second tragedy of the Newtown, Conn., shootings would be if the nation moves on from this heartbreaking event without coming up with concrete solutions to stem the access of military-style assault weapons. The passage of time has a way of lessening the sting of yesterday’s pain, but also blunts today’s demand for change.
The president and Congress must keep the memory of Newtown’s tragedy fresh in our hearts and minds for the next several months until more sensible legislation is passed and signed into law.
We particularly encourage Vermont hunters and gun owners to join in that debate. Vermonters have been raised in a culture in which gun ownership is not just a right, but also a responsibility. From parents teaching their children how to shoot at targets and then join in hunting, to hunter safety classes, Vermonters use and think of guns as a way to enjoy the outdoors, to be closer to nature, and to enjoy hunting as sport and a way to connect with family and friends. This is a world apart from what 20-year-old Adam Lanza did when he used an AR-15 style Bushmaster assault rifle to murder six adults along with 20 six- and seven-year-old students at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday, Dec. 14.
It is vital the nation has a common sense debate between the right to own guns for sport and self-protection vs. owning assault-style weapons designed to kill people. It’s also important for Americans to remember that a ban on semi-automatic weapons expired in 2004, during the Bush presidency, at a time when an increasingly right-wing House of Representatives refused to keep safeguards in place and which has led, as Sen. Bernie Sanders recently said, to “an epidemic of mass killings.”
It is a national disgrace that so many gun-related killings occur year after year. It is also important to know that the National Rifle Association is at the heart of that disgrace. The NRA has been so effective at turning gun owners against common sense legislation (primarily through campaigns of fear and misrepresentation) that no new federal laws on gun control have been passed since 1994. Meanwhile, weapon sales have soared.
Congress and the president will lead the discussion, but what could be most helpful is for responsible gun owners to make their voices heard in the halls of Congress, as well as the lobbying offices of the NRA. The rest of the nation can dictate its outrage, but only gun owners will be able to change the mindset of what has become an organization controlled by gun manufacturers for the sole purpose of making billions of dollars in profit — regardless of how many innocent victims are killed.
To avoid the taint of this increasingly rouge organization, America’s gun owners need to rise up to champion responsible gun laws. They also need to understand that the NRA has been using them for political purchase and to pad their pockets, not to protect the 2nd Amendment. Gun owners and hunters, in particular, need to see through that political charade and understand that for the NRA, profit is their motive, political deceit is their game, and hunters are their pawns.
Angelo S. Lynn