Tom Mauser of Colorado Ceasefire is the f ather of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser and maintains a memorial page to his son at http://www.danielmauser.com.
Just what does it take to get America's attention and action? A lot, apparently.
In recent weeks we've seen a terrible spate of horrific mass shootings of every sort. Yet what's been our reaction? Most do little beyond shake their heads and say, "How tragic." We seem incapable of doing anything to deal with gun violence the way other Free World nations have done.
Gun violence has become our domestic terrorism. We lose nearly 11,000 to gun homicide each year, and three times that number are injured. But that's not enough to stir most Americans into action.
Too many Americans are influenced by the excuses and slick clichés of the gun lobby. You've heard them all—"Guns don't kill people, people kill people"; "One more gun law won't make a difference." But excuses and clichés don't solve problems. Meanwhile, the gun lobby just keeps offering up the same, tired old solutions: more guns, no new gun laws, fewer gun restrictions, and more punishment. We've been there and done that, yet still have a shameful gun violence problem.
Fear sells well in America. The gun lobby and industry have made many Americans fear an armed takeover, and convinced many that any form of gun control is a major step toward the total elimination of all guns.
No single gun law can stop all shootings, but inaction will do absolutely nothing. Punishment alone isn't enough, because in most cases once we lose our loved ones it is too late, and because punishment doesn't stop shooters intent on committing suicide following their rampage.
We have to be serious about prevention. But it's tough to even get that in this country. Shouldn't we at least make sure the most dangerous people, like felons, spouse abusers, and the mentally disturbed, do not have easy access to firearms? Thanks to the gun lobby, in 33 states we allow those dangerous people to walk into a gun show and easily purchase a firearm from a private seller without having to pass a background check. That's the gaping "gun show loophole," and the gun lobby fiercely fights to keep it open.
The gun lobby defends military-style assault weapons, even though they allow criminals and government haters to outgun our police. These are weapons intended to inflict massive damage. The gun lobby claims that not too many people are killed with them. Well, just how many would they consider an excessive number?
So why do Americans tolerate weak gun laws, loopholes, and these assault weapons of mass destruction? Because most of our political leaders are being held hostage by the most powerful and unforgiving lobby in America, the gun lobby. Many of our political leaders are badgered into submission by hard-core gun supporters. And we let them get away with it.
In Colorado, following Columbine, we did something to address the gun show loophole. We closed it. We put the issue on the statewide ballot and won by a margin of 70 percent to 30 percent—a mighty wide margin in a western, hunting, pro-gun state. It passed because voters understood it was a common-sense matter, and because it is much harder for the gun lobby to badger thousands of reasonable people than it is to badger a small group of legislators.
Until we put more measures on the ballot or learn to put more pressure on elected officials to offset the relentless badgering of the gun lobby, this country will continue to have weak gun laws and a shamefully high level of gun violence.
Most Americans support a basic right to bear arms. However, they also recognize that no right is absolute and they understand the need for some reasonable restrictions for their protection. But they are not going to see many reasonable restrictions so long as the gun lobby has a strangle hold on our decision makers.
I am an optimist by nature, but I believe that, unfortunately, the voices of reason will continue to be overwhelmed by the voices of fear. Sadly, it may take the loss of many more lives before Americans come to their senses and stop letting the gun lobby have its way. Many more lives may be lost before America finally acknowledges that it's not wise to let gun policy be written by the gun lobby. The only question now is just how many more lives will have to be lost before America seeks a new direction. How many? I pray America will say we have already have lost too many.