NRA puts children in the crosshairs

That messed up little rhyme from the third grade goes, “Bang, bang, teacher’s dead. Fifty bullets in her head.” It gets even more messed up when it turns into reality.
Welcome to the anarchy that opponents of gun control have long denied would ever occur. Innocent kids and teachers are going to early graves because of our nation’s obsession with guns and our resistance to regulating them.
If you are still convinced the Second Amendment is one of the greatest parts of being American, the outbreak of violence at the hands of children should dampen your enthusiasm. There have been several tragedies all in the last week. Andrew Wurst, a 14-year-old student, known as “Satan” by classmates, was arrested and charged with bursting into a school dance in Edinboro, Pa., where he allegedly shot and killed a science teacher and wounded three students. Closer to home, a 15-year-old reportedly shot and killed a student at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. On April 15 in Minneapolis, another 15-year-old was shot and killed by a 17-year-old in front of his apartment.
In previous months, there has been an unprecedented rise in the number and severity of deaths at the hands of children who should have never had access to guns in the first place. The incidents are flaring up around the country: a shooting last October in Pearl, Miss., a December one in West Paducah, Ky., and March’s incident in Jonesboro, Ark.
In the Edinboro, Pearl, West Paducha, and Jonesboro incidents, the list of innocent victims include 11 dead and 25 wounded students and teachers.
The recent plague of kids murdering kids should prove embarrassing for the National Rifle Association. While the NRA talks worshipfully of gun owners’ “rights,” we should instead be considering measures to curtail the prevalence and pervasiveness of guns in our society. Not even the most dedicated members of the NRA could say, without blinking an eye, that the kids who shot their teachers and classmates couldn’t have been stopped with more reasonable gun control laws. This isn’t rocket science.
It takes less effort to obtain a gun license than it does to get a driver’s license. Automobiles are a heavily regulated instrument with laws designed by the government for the protection of everyone in society. Suggesting that the gun industry, whose ultimate purpose is to create tools of death, should be treated with any less precaution is absurd.
When the Brady Act of 1993 was denounced by gun owners and the NRA, we heard that the bill would be an intrusion into their Second Amendment rights. However, the conditions for gun ownership in the Brady legislation set up some basic, long overdue restrictions on sales to the most potentially dangerous owners — convicted felons and persons with records of dangerous mental illness. It has shown its value by keeping guns out of the hands of hundreds of thousands of criminals and psychopaths.
Despite the arguments of advocates for Second Amendment rights, the Brady legislation hasn’t gone far enough. Too many presumably responsible adults have acted as accessories in carelessly failing to keep guns out of childrens’ hands.
Not even “responsible” gun owners are off the hook. According to a 1997 U.N. study, the United States has both the highest number of deaths involving firearms and the weakest regulations of all industrialized countries. Is this really the kind of liberty that the NRA believes in? Canada and England have implemented more comprehensive bans on a wide range of firearms, and have some of the lowest murder rates in the world.
It’s time to put this blind loyalty to our constitutional “right” to own lethal weapons into perspective, and follow the leads of countries with lower murder rates. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, after all, means nothing if anyone at the wrong place and the wrong time winds up a victim of a senseless shooting.
The NRA has repeatedly told us that guns, among their other uses, are an essential part of citizens’ rights to defend themselves, and part of national security. We are supposed to believe that the federal government might decide to declare war on its people or might fail to protect us during a foreign invasion. Therefore, the more guns, the better protected we all are.
In the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller, the Supreme Court decided that possession of a firearm is not protected by the Second Amendment unless it has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. They also held that the National Guard is the militia of today.
Unfortunately, yahoo militia types have continued to make a mockery of the original intent of the Second Amendment by giving us graphic exposure to what “rights” really mean to them. Apparently, militia acts like the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City are supposedly covered by the Second Amendment also.
And after the recent outbreak of murders on school grounds, even ordinarily law-abiding gun owners may be headed back to the drawing board to put together a convincing argument for why guns are a valuable part of our society.
We have all heard the overused slogan, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It looks good on a bumper sticker but sounds awfully empty in a eulogy.
Last week’s incident in Pennsylvania was just another reason why arguments for the absolute protection of gun owners’ “rights” have turned into nonsensical platitudes to blame something other than guns for senseless, preventable deaths. No matter how you slice it, guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.

Gregory Borchard’s column appears every Thursday. He can be reached with comments via e-mail at [email protected]