Op-ed column: Stepped-up security hasn’t stopped those among us with guns

Sunday, April 29, 2012
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William Brown/Tribune Media
William Brown/Tribune Media

Since the fall of the World Trade Center on that bright, clear day in September more than 10 years ago, I have watched the gradual waning of our civil liberties.

No matter the public removal of one’s clothing and the search of one’s person in airports; “as long as we’re safe,” most people will say. No matter the increasing need to validate oneself by producing ID where once we used to blithely enter possessed of nothing more than our right as U.S. citizens to go and come peaceably at our will. No matter if our government monitors our messages and phone calls. Necessary in the name of security is now all that it is necessary to say.

Slowly, incrementally we are becoming the sort of nation we used to abhor, one where suspicion is the rule, not the exception, a culture where producing one’s identify on demand is routine. Whether or not a great deal of this continual security checking is meant to give more of a sense of security rather than guarantee its reality is subject to debate.

Caught after the fact

However, I would point out that to the two true terrorists apprehended since 9/11 — a man attempting to ignite his sneakers on a flight from London to New York and a man concealing a bomb in his clothes, which he tried to ignite as the plane was landing — were caught after they’d been cleared by security, not before.

Some of what we’re subjected to in the name of our safety these days is admittedly — even by authorities and experts — theater. But in some of the horrendous instances of bloodshed, occurring with increasing frequency, there has been no security. There was no security protecting the 30-plus murdered at Virginia Tech. None for those lined up outside the supermarket to meet Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Nor was there any security for that class of ESL students and their teacher in Binghamton as that disturbed lone gunman walked in. And indeed it was security, an ordinary citizen patrolling as a volunteer watchman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

As long as automatic weapons are available to the general public, in many states with minimum controls, we have no security. In the good old days of Wyatt Earp and John Dillinger, handguns were limited to the bullets in a chamber of six; shots needed to be carefully aimed, which demanded skill. In our increasingly fearful times of easy massacre, all that is needed is a trigger finger with which to begin that spray of most awful death.

Death comes easily

Death is now as easy as the metaphoric flick of a switch. No skilled marksmanship required. In the old B movies with which we spent our Saturday afternoons, the cops shot for the tires, not the drivers; they shot for the body, but not to kill. In those times, we were satisfied if the villain was caught and locked up. Our stories did not need to end in the inevitable pools of blood.

Strict gun control at a national level is as sorely needed for our national security as X-raying our shoes and inspecting our body parts for bombs. The right to bear arms carries a modern responsibility that our Founding Fathers could not have foreseen at a time when a deadly weapon needed to be separately loaded for each shot. No arc of instant destruction was possible then. Success at your target in those times demanded precision, a quality most are lacking now.

Where’s the outrage?

Each time there is a mass murder, I listen in vain for voices demanding gun control, a clamor to our legislators to initiate and back a bill. And each time I wait in vain. Rather, I’m barraged with the bloody details, interviews, press conferences, those garrulous talking heads mulling the prurient details.

How long must we wait for our understanding to match our technology? Merely because an automatic weapon can kill many so rapidly, must we accept this without debate?

Advances in technology, however deadly, are not inevitable. Beyond technology there is human understanding, human intelligence, human discipline. Our humanity, our self-control.

Barbara DeMille lives in Rensselaerville. The Gazette encourages readers to submit material on local issues for the Sunday Opinion section.

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April 29, 2012
11:33 a.m.
duke1942 says...

One more moronic tirade & rant about 'more' gun control laws based on isolated incidents. In the rare situations where people deliberately drive an auto into a crowd to kill and maim, is there a call to have stricter car ownership laws? OK, for the millionth time "criminals DO NOT care about gun ownership laws." Cases in point, review the statistics for gun related crime in Chicago & Washington, DC. Both of the places have horrendous crime and the strictest gun ownership of any place other than NYC. We the people don't want or need more gun ownership laws since we are law-abiding people and in this time of local government reductions of police and fire fighters, we need to protect ourselves. Remember, 'when seconds count the police are minutes away.'

April 29, 2012
9:53 p.m.
myshortpencil says...

This is ridiculous. The homicide rate is near a 40-year record low. 4.8 per 100,000 in 2010, compared to a low of 4.6 in 1962 and 1963. At its peak, the homicide rate was 10.2, in 1980. Moreover, the homicide rate has fallen in each of the past 5 years, despite automatic weapons, which have been around for decades, and other technological advancements.

I never cease to be amazed by the crises that are fabricated at record lows. Smoking is a crisis, even though its a record lows. Gun violence is a crisis, at near record lows. Health care is a crisis, even though people live longer than ever before. Teen pregnancy is a crisis, even though it is at record lows. Taxes are a crisis, even though our taxes are at or near 40-year lows. The list goes on and on.

The opposite is also true. Free speech isn't a crisis even though more of our speech is censored and punished than ever in our history. Education spending isn't a crisis even though we spend more than ever, adjusted for inflation, even with all the so-called "cuts" of the past three years.

The real crises go unnoticed and the false ones get all the press. Amazing.

April 29, 2012
10:06 p.m.
Newsworthy says...

Ms. DeMille writes from the view of someone ignorant of guns. Automatic weapons cannot be legally purchased without a special license; the crimes mentioned were not committed with automatic weapons.

The fact is that semi-automatic handguns are still not precision firearms, as portrayed by Ms. DeMille, nor can they "spray" death at "the flick of a switch". She has been watching too much TV. The tragic incidents cited have been the result of gunmen, often with multiple weapons, acting at very close range and firing into a crowd - where they could hardly miss.

As already stated, adding restrictions to law-abiding citizens won't accomplish anything meaningful. Plenty of illegal guns are already available to criminals. A more realistic solution is needed - suggestions, anyone?

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