Guns Not The Issue; We Are

Posted: January 19, 2013

After reading several letters on this page about the proliferation of assault weapons and the violence they cause, it made me think about several things.

Does the Second Amendment allow the private ownership of military-type weapons? At the amendment’s writing in 1791, the U.S. Army used flintlock muskets. These muskets were also available to the general public. In the mid 1840s, the Army adopted the percussion cap rifle. It was more accurate and reliable than the flintlock and was also used by ordinary citizens. A good soldier could fire about four shots per minute.

During the Civil War, the Sharps carbine was introduced to both the public and the military. Now you could get off about 10 shots in a minute. In 1866, Winchester produced a lever-action rifle with a magazine capacity of 15 rounds. This was also available to the general public.

Fast forward to 1936, when the M1 Garand was developed and a man could fire 50 shots per minute and carry many eight round clips. These rifles are still available for sale from private dealers and the Civilian Marksmanship Program, which is chartered by the U.S. Congress. In 1959, the Army adopted the M14 rifle with a detachable 20-round magazine. This too is available to the public in its semi-automatic form.

That brings us to the weapon Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook massacre, the AR-15. This rifle was developed as the M16 by the Armalite Corp. in 1957 for the U.S. military. The rights to this weapon were purchased by Colt in 1959 and the civilian version, the AR-15, was made available to the public in 1963.

So my question is, why since the founding of our republic, should it be illegal for law-abiding citizens to possess weapons similar to ones used by our military? Why is it now, after nearly 50 years on the civilian market, that an AR-15 is being used for such horrific crimes?

When I went to school in the 1960s and 70s, we studied only one massacre in the 20th century, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of Feb. 14, 1929. Al Capone’s gang murdered seven rivals with sub-machine guns.

Then we have to jump 37 years to August 1966, when Charles Whitman murdered 14 and wounded 32 at the University of Texas in Austin.

Since then the U.S. has seen at least 10 high-profile, multiple murders, killing 157 people and wounding many others, with six of these events happening since 2006.

Weapons with high-capacity detachable magazines have been around for many decades, so why are they now the reason for such mayhem? Could it have anything to do with the near impossibility of having a dangerous, mentally ill person involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital? Or could it be that for decades our schools have taught our children they are some sort of cosmic accident and their ancestors emerged out of a primordial swamp?

Is it at all possible that in the day of intact families, headed by parents who were married to each other, living under the same roof, they were more stable, thus creating a more stable society. As Plato said over 2,000 years ago, “The life of the nation is the life of the family, written LARGE.”

Plato’s words are just as true today as they were in his time.

Is it possible that we, as parents, are failing to properly teach our children discipline and self control? Are we engaging our teenagers in meaningful conversations about life and sharing with them our values? Are we parents acting like adults or just overgrown adolescents? No wonder some have no hope, and see self-gratification as a lifestyle.

Perhaps if Adam Lanza’s parents hadn’t divorced, had dinner together each evening and thanked God for His blessings, and just maybe if Adam’s father told him that even with disabilities God still loved him and had a plan for him, I dare say we might not be having this discussion about assault weapons.

Rudy Erb lives in Linville.

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