I remember when a few deranged men went “postal” in the 1980s and subsequent years – a term coined to describe their former place of employment, which was the United States Postal Service. The results were a rash of shooting rampages, and it was a story I reported on for an audience of human resource executives who were reminded about the importance of maintaining good mental health across the workplace. My latest article on this topic published over the summer was about the release of a documentary called “Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal.”
Those times now seem so quaint.
There have been at least 16 shootings in the U.S. in 2012 alone that have garnered national attention, with atrocities committed in very public places such as a movie theater, shopping mall and elementary school.
What’s so deeply shocking to me about the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is that as a father of two preschoolers and a teen-ager, I’m horrified that so many innocent children were gunned down. The other issue that hits close to home is I grew up not far from this school in another typically small and seemingly safe New England town that was full of charm and love.
Never in my wildest imagination would I have ever thought as a child of the 1960s and ’70s that anything like this would occur on a regular basis in my lifetime.
Something is terribly wrong with our country that we all have to worry about being gunned down or caught in the crossfire every time we leave the house. So what can be done to rid ourselves of this scourge?
For starters, we need to change our culture and thinking about firearms. Guns are a major part of American history. Without them, scores of Indian tribes would never have been killed or driven off their land and forced to live on reservations carved into the majestic landscape of this New World for European explorers and settlers. I'm not being facetious.
American citizens have a right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but I believe that the gun lobby in this country has simply become too politically powerful and influential.
The time has come to put people ahead of profit by seriously restricting the sale of assault rifles and confiscating as many of
those weapons as possible that are still in circulation through various incentive programs. These high-powered firearms are tools for mass killing that should be restricted to the battlefield. They have no place in the hands of hunters or those who want to protect their homes and especially the mentally imbalanced people who end up perpetrating these shooting rampages that have
unnerved us all.
We can do this. We did it with another scourge, smoking, which has become so demonized in American culture since the U.S. Surgeon General’s report linking tobacco use to cancer that smokers have been forced outdoors for their smoke breaks. And in some cases, they can’t even smoke in public parks or beaches. Why can’t we apply the same rationale toward assault rifles?
It would be a perfectly reasonable compromise with gun enthusiasts, who rightly believe that general gun-control efforts are just too porous to keep weapons from criminals. At least this would be a step in the right direction. Otherwise, we’ll continue to pay far too high a price for the freedom to bear arms.