Knopf: The time has come for swift action on gun restrictions (column)
November 9, 2017
In light of the brutal attack on a country music concert in Las Vegas and now this past weekend on a church in a rural Texas town, the time has come, once and for all, to have a conversation about guns in America, specifically semi-automatic weapons. Let me preface this narrative, for those who immediately feel our 2nd Amendment rights to bear arms are about to be questioned. That's just not the case. I am a gun owner. I am a responsible hunter. And I am not in the least worried about anyone or any government taking away my firearms or the right to legally use them. But let's be clear, no matter what side of the gun issue you are on, we have to agree that something needs to be done in our culture to stem the out of control gun violence leaving so many people without the ability to maintain life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In both Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, the weapon of choice was a semi-automatic assault rifle. In the case of Las Vegas, an aftermarket add-on bump stock was used by the shooter to make his weapons fully automatic and thus more lethal — 59 dead and 546 wounded. How much longer do we have to hear from leadership in law enforcement to get these weapons off the streets, before something is actually done? How many more lives do we have to lose, before we wise up about these military style weapons currently available to anyone who wants to buy them? They need to be illegal to own or purchase.
Our founding fathers never imagined this kind of weaponry when the 2nd Amendment was written. A handheld surface-to-air missile is also a firearm, but none of us can go out and legally buy one to go shooting at our friend's farm. Having the ability to buy an AR-15 or an AK-47, just so we can plink on our friend's property is not a good reason to own one. You don't use them to hunt (and if you do, you have bigger problems) and you don't need them to defend your home. These are weapons of mass killing and Americans are at significant risk with them being so readily available.
Remember, I am a gun owner. But I am so tired of the rhetoric from the leadership of the National Rifle Association, who continually operate pushing back on the topic of gun control, even though the majority of its membership support a sensible conversation about the subject. I refuse to join the NRA because it has contributed to the corruption of our legislative branch of government. The amount of money passing from gun manufacturers to the NRA to members of Congress is staggering. And thus, few on Capitol Hill want to broach this important conversation, because the money is too good and many don't give a rip about the consequences.
My friend Liliana Stahlberg, Pastor at Lord of the Mountains Lutheran Church says it very well.
She says, "As a nation we need to look into our souls and realize that what we treasure most is the worship of two dangerous idols: GUNS & MONEY; deeply connected idols, have always been; they are being worshipped above anything else; all places of worship are more or less complicit in propagating such idolatrous values either because they are afraid or have been bought into the system."
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Getting back to Sutherland Springs, the shooter had a record when he was bounced out of the Air Force for abusing his wife and child. He was sent to a mental treatment center for evaluation, but escaped. Yet, his record didn't make it to the FBI's National Database, a mistake that will result in increased scrutiny with the Defense Department in Washington. How could this have happened? No matter the answer, the Texas shooter successfully purchased several weapons both in Colorado and Texas. And yes, I know what you might be thinking; crazies can get a tool to kill if they really want to, gun or otherwise. But if this shooter did not have a semi-automatic assault weapon in his hands, the death toll might have been much lower. So many innocent people, including children, coming together to pray on a Sunday morning, would still be alive today.
We had an assault weapons ban in the U.S. from 1994 until it was allowed to expire in 2004. In that 10-year period, there were 17 mass shootings reported, or 1.7 mass shootings per year. One hundred people died and 237 people wounded. In the 13 years since, after the assault ban expired, there have been 59 mass shootings. … an average of four and a half per year. Five hundred and nine people died and 898 people wounded.
I urge each and every one of you reading this column to pause and reflect, then take action. It's time to vote out the scumbags in Congress who only care about lining their pockets instead of protecting our very way of life. I heard someone on the radio say today, the only way to protect yourself in a mass shooting is through practice drills, like fire drills. That was one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard! When someone walks in with a semi-automatic weapon, whether in a school or a business or shopping center, a practice drill is not going to help you deal with a flurry of bullets and no place to take cover.
I am a member of the Summit County Colorado Interfaith Council. And as a group, we will again come together on Friday, Dec. 8, in Frisco to remember the victims who have lost their lives to gun violence. The time has come to stop the killing.
Jonathan Knopf is a guest columnist and editorial board member for the Summit Daily. He is a full-time resident of Silverthorne and a broadcast news professional for the past 40 years.
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