It’s time to talk about guns

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It was good to hear Jim Taylor address the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn. at the end of Monday’s city council meeting.

A victim of a horrific shooting at a Salem tavern in the early 1980s, Taylor speaks with authority on the issue of gun violence. He said that the violence has got to stop.

What rational person was not thrown by the senseless carnage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School? There were the expected calls from some quarters for immediate gun control, bans, reforms, and the like.

Taylor also touched on a major aspect of violence: mental health. The shooter at a theatre in Colorado this summer is said to have suffered a mental illness. The rush to judgment is that the Newtown school shooter had a mental illness issue as well.

After so many mass shootings in the country this year, including one in our backyard at Clackamas Town Center, the pendulum is swinging in the direction of addressing the too-easy feat of purchasing guns. Of course not all guns used in these mass shootings were purchased; it has been reported that the Connecticut shooter stole the guns he used from his mother’s house.

Those who say we should ban all guns are living in a fantasy. The banishment of guns will never happen; the Constitution guarantees that right and Article 2 will not be changed anytime in our lifetime. Those who seek a change in laws that allow the sale of miliatry-style assault weapons are on the right track. Shooting a gun is fun, especially an assault weapon. But they don’t have a practical use in an American’s everyday life.

People purchase guns for protection, for sport, and for hunting. There are millions of responsible gun owners who keep their weapons locked up and away from children. Responsbile people apply for permits if they wish to carry a concealed weapon.

Gun rights supporters often say there is not a gun problem, there’s an enforcement problem.  That is easy to say, but the police can’t be everywhere. Sellers of guns should be following gun laws—undoubtedly, most do. Can we be sure, however, that sellers at gunshows and on the Internet are doing the same?

There is also a mental health problem.  For years states have done what they believed was best for sufferers of mental illness by mainstreaming them into society. Facilities have been closed, budgets at every level have been cut. Privacy laws make it difficult to commit someone who is in need. It is not necessarily true that every mass killing shooter is mentally ill, but many are. We have seen too many times over recent years what happens when mental illness meets the ease of acquiring weapons.

The gun issue is a people issue. We, as a society, must demand that gun laws be enforced, that an assault weapons ban is re-imposed, and that laws and rules make it easier to get psychiatric help for those who need it before they harm themselves or others.

Guns in our society are here to stay, that’s reality. We will not ban guns, but we can certainly legislate what types of weapons and ammunition is available.

Councilor Jim Taylor is ready. Will we join him?

—LAZ

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