Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?

What will it take for reasonable conversation about changes to our gun culture? Patch columnist Heather Borden Herve asks if the number of Newtown’s dead is finally reason to say, “Enough.”


I’m tired of the rhetoric, from all sides. I’m tired of the pro-gun statistic fight against the anti-gun statistic fight.

There comes a point where ‘this’ quote citation to defend constitutional originalism and ‘that’ quote citation to defend constitutional interpretation is basically like arms buildup. I’ll see your statistic and absolute proof that the Founding Fathers wanted us to keep our guns, and I’ll raise you my statistic and historically empirical evidence that they never could have imagined semi-automatic, rapid-firing reloading guns in the hands of citizens!

Quite honestly, I can’t decide if I’ve intentionally used that ‘arms buildup’ pun or not. Because I just don’t know what makes it through the rhetorical barrage anymore.

On each side, we find our numbers and quotes to defend our position and we’ll continue having the same argument unless we say, “Enough.”

Can we consider the possibility that a document that is almost 226 years old might need us to legitimately reconsider the context of 2013 when figuring out how to move forward? Can we consider that the unfathomable slaughter of 20 children and 6 adults in a school, a place once considered a safe haven, is a price too high to pay to ignore that?

Because while we may debate the certainty of what the framers of the Constitution really did want when it comes to the Second Amendment, what I think we can all agree on with absolute certainty is that the individuals who wrote it did respect thoughtful consideration, reasonable debate, and discussion without absolutist decree. If they were content with failure to change, we never would have had found ourselves independent of England’s rule to begin with.

The closest thing I’ve found to even begin to approach reasonable discussion about the gun rights debate is an article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg — a link to which was posted in one of the 110-plus comments of a Wilton Patch article I wrote last week about a local group that met with state legislators to talk about the issue. (I’m sure the reader who made the comment and link will be surprised that I’m citing it here, as he and I stand, by and large, on opposite sides of the debate.)

The Atlantic piece asserts that there are steps which could be taken to reduce access to guns and ammunition “for the criminially minded, for the dangerously mentally ill and for the suicidal, and that measures could be taken that sensibly restrict access to weapons and ammunition that “have no reasonable civilian purpose, and their sale could be restricted without violating the Second Amendment rights of individual gun owners.” However, he concludes, these efforts would be noble but “too late” to have any meaningful impact on the rate of gun violence.

He writes that it’s too late because of the number of guns — 280 to 300 million — in private hands in this country.

While I disagree with much of what the Atlantic writer asserts — from an emotional standpoint — I have to give the writer credit for speaking to experienced people around the country on both sides’ frontlines of the gun discussion: victims of gun violence, researchers, law enforcement officers, gun enthusiasts, and lobbyists and activists.

It’s a step toward acknowledgement of what each side believes; it concedes that each side has some ground, at the very least; and it starts to establish a foundation for how pro and con advocates might be able to stop ramming each other and start listening, if not conceding, to each other, “You’ve got a point.”

I acknowledge that I tend to come at this issue from my own, emotional perspective. Even this opinion column has to take a side, by definition, if not just by its headline. But the emotional arguments of gun-control crusaders that get belittled by the gun-rights activists are just as outsized as the fear-mongering assertions made by those same extreme gun-rightists meant to stop anti-gun advocates in their tracks.

But I suspect there are plenty of people in the middle who would like to figure out a way to move toward this rational discussion about how some changes can be made.

Haven’t we had enough of the killings to try? I guess not when some people think we don’t have enough guns, as if the solution to gun violence is more guns. Or that it’s too late to do anything about it because there are too many guns out there already, so why try anything at all?

We can keep headed the wrong way down the road, where more deaths are sure to happen, and just continue going the wrong way because we’ll eventually get to where we need to go. The world is round so all we have to do is circle the globe, we’ll get there eventually. But by then, there won’t be enough of us left on either side who say, “Enough.”

The Atlantic piece ends with Goldberg writing about gun-control advocate Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign, who asked, “’In a fundamental way, isn’t this a question about the kind of society we want to live in?’ Do we want to live in one ‘in which the answer to violence is more violence, where the answer to guns is more guns?’” Goldberg adds that in a nation with 300 million guns, it’s an irrelevant question.

That’s exactly why my initial question — “Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?” — needs to be seen as anything but irrelevant. It’s become the most relevant question of all.

Pgmr9 January 09, 2013 at 12:07 PM
it was illegal when he stole his mothers guns it was illegal when he shot his mother in the face it was illegal when he stole his mothers car it was illegal when he took guns on school property it was illegal when he forced his way into school it was illegal when he started shooting people Please tell me again HOW passing MORE LAWS on legal gun owners help solve the problem of mentally insane and criminals that don't give a S___ about your laws anyway
See the truth January 09, 2013 at 04:23 PM
Hillbillies will never be able to see their hand in front of their faces when their precious gun wielding ideals are in the way. Our society has changed and our laws must change to adapt. This is a sign of intelligence. AR-15's have no place in modern urban society. These childrens deaths should be enough for any reasonable person to note that these legally obtained and poorly controlled weapons clearly ended up in the wrong hands much like the one that killed the policeman yesterday. Wake up everyone!!
Pgmr9 January 09, 2013 at 04:54 PM
you didn't answer the question-HOW passing MORE LAWS on legal gun owners help solve the problem of mentally insane and criminals that don't give a S___ about your laws anyway
Laura January 09, 2013 at 05:15 PM
"... the emotional arguments of gun-control crusaders that get belittled by the gun-rights activists ..." Don't forget the statement-of-fact arguments of law abiding gun owners (AKA "activists") that get belittled (hillbilly, anyone?) by gun control "crusaders"
Shawn detlefsen January 09, 2013 at 05:37 PM
Lets see how many anti gun people actually know what an assault rifle or ar 15 is?? If you are pro gun please do not answer
Shawn detlefsen January 09, 2013 at 05:38 PM
And also use your real name if you feel strongly about something why hide maybe because you have no ground to speak about a situation you know anything about!!!!
Shawn detlefsen January 09, 2013 at 05:49 PM
You people who want to ban everything every time something happens should be ban from society for causing situation like this you make everyone feel like they need to be perfect like you in your perfect little world and if they aren't like you then there a outcast! maybe if people would help people with mental issue or if they had a place to go for help there would be less of this our country has been closing down mental hospitals all over because of budget cuts maybe you should spend more time going after our government to cut spending on other countries and spend it here for are people guns are not the problem people like you are!! Get real and educate yourself on the bigger problem
pete January 09, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Addressing mental illness is a great start too. While tighter measures for permit holders and applicants is a valid point. One that is worthy the cause. Schools are already gun free places. ( So how is that war working out?) might as well hang a banner saying come in we are harmless and defenseless. Feel good laws based on feelings and emotions will not end the violence. If its not a gun it will be a knife , a belt, a handkerchief, a car etc. So take my pen and keyboard for bad penmanship. My car because its a murder weapon in statistics. Where does it end. Addressing mental health is a number one priority. Asylums and wards have been shutting down since the 60's. Its not the law abiding gun owners committing these hate crimes. Its always the mentally ill who are free to roam the streets daily. Tighter measures for pistol permit applicants is a novel idea. Sale of retina scan devices for gun locks as well as finger print id on triggers is another. Thinking you can ban all weapons and get them off the streets is insane and those who have been fighting the war on illegal banned drugs for decades will contest. Its just not happening. The second amendment has to do with Tyranny. Protection against an ever so growing government seeking more access to our lives and controlling our every bit of existance
Mary January 10, 2013 at 01:54 AM
Mental health in this country should be our focus.. We also need to look at how violent video games desensitize people, especially those with mental illness.. A mentally ill young man, unsupervised for hours, sitting in a basement playing violent games should be a red flag for any parent. Education on mental illness, supervision of people with mental illness and structured programs for people having difficulty might help prevent such horror. I think we need to look at the resources available for the mentally ill and face the fact that they are shut off from society and left to struggle on their own. The Oklahoma City Bomber used manure. I think the only hope is to educate people who have mentally ill people in their families on what things will help and what will cause more damage. We live in a drug fix culture which believes that medicating people solves the problem ( some drugs have been proven to make things worse).. Medication alone won’t work. It is very complicated but we need to look at mental illness and pour money and resource into finding programs that work. I fear we will simply make more laws and never treat the causes. How are you going to stop it? One person at a time, one community at a time by identifying those at risk and treating them competently and continually. Gun laws will never stop insanity. Those who believe it will ,are themselves deluded or politically motivated to use a tragedy for another agenda.
rodger January 10, 2013 at 09:08 AM
a few voices in the wilderness here - thank you- otherwise ignorance and emotion rule over common sense and oh ya that pesky constitution! "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 2nd Amendment US Constitution "We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." Barack Obama "If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun." Dalai Lama
rodger January 10, 2013 at 09:10 AM
The gun(s) weren't legally obtained-the shooter tried to buy a gun legally and was denied
ahhhnonymous January 10, 2013 at 04:14 PM
I love how people seem to know that our founding fathers "could not have possibly imagined" the weaponry we now have available today. (enter: sarcasm) Yes, because it's impossible to imagine that, at that time, humans might actually invent something better. What an insult to their legacy. They left us a MANUAL on how to proceed. Just follow it. Citizens are never to have their arms taken away - period. Our rights go well beyond the scope or problem of school shootings.
rodger January 11, 2013 at 12:42 AM
p.s. the Barack O quote is NOT a good thing btw in case someone didn't notice that by reading it-it would be an example of gvt tyranny
rodger January 11, 2013 at 01:00 AM
If someone at the school who was a 'good guy' had a gun there would be less and maybe even no dead if someone wants a gun someone will get a gun by any means possible It is naive to think that taking guns away from licensed owners will prevent anything-believing in the good of human nature is nice in theory but in reality it is foolhardy. if someone with a gun were pointing a gun at your family would you want a gun or a cell phone?


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