The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 21, 2012

John Cox, guest columnist: Assault weapons problem out of control

JOPLIN, Mo. — The recent slaying of innocent children in Connecticut has been a lot to take in. But it’s not history’s first mass-killing, nor will it be its last.

Larger scale tragedies have happened at the hands of madmen such as Hitler, Stalin and Herod. They’ve happened in countries where hate exists for citizens of a certain ethnic group — places such as Rwanda, Yugoslavia, the Congo and Ethiopia. The difference is that we live in a lawful, stable nation that is free of dictators.

Yet, today in American, a disturbed individual can easily obtain weapons, which were once reserved for the military, to slaughter kids and their protectors in cold blood. Malls, theaters, schools — these all used to be thought of as safe places.

I own hunting weapons, but I do not own assault weapons. Nor do I have 30-round clips or ammo that is made to do maximum damage. Why would I?

I don’t envision a shoot-out with my fellow man, zombies or government agents in black helicopters. Gun manufacturers would like you to envision that very scenario, in hopes that you will load up on the biggest, baddest killing machines by the carload. Since the ban on assault weapons was lifted by Congress in 2004, gun companies have cleaned up and used the profits to threaten any lawmaker who has suggested limits be put on these types of weapons.

Don’t you know that a government agent who wants to bust in and take your weapons is lurking around the corner? Load up. Spend your money. Feed the slaughter.

I can’t wrap my head around the idea of possessing a weapon that’s only purpose is to kill humans quickly in large numbers. It’s not for me. If the world comes to us slugging it out with each other using automatic weapons, then please, come to my house and take me out early. It goes against everything I was trained to do in medical school and in church.

How many schoolchildren would have been killed if the shooter was equipped with a shotgun or deer rifle that’s only capable of making five or six shots? Is putting our teachers, principals, mall workers and movie attendants in a position to shoot it out with a gunman the solution? Who will die in the crossfire? Who will certify them to use weapons in a public place? As we cut budgets for schools, mental health programs and law enforcement agencies to preserve the no-taxes tidal wave in state budgets, who will stand in the breach when madmen open fire?

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said the killing of 20 beautiful children and six adult protectors happened because we took God out of schools. Really? I wonder if Mr. Huckabee has the same theory when shootings occur in movie theaters or malls. I guess it depends whether Huckabee the apologist for the gun companies or Huckabee the preacher is talking.

I think Huckabee is mistaken about where God exists. The God I pray to resides in my heart, no matter where I am. It’s the same for my kids — he is with them at school, at the movies and as they sleep. Just because we respect the religions of others in public places doesn’t take that away. I suspect God was with those brave souls who shielded the kids that day.

Making public displays of religion and taking strong pro-life stands while owning a private arsenal seems to be contradiction. If we are truly pro-life, it has to be just that — in all areas, to all souls who walk the earth. We are told to be our brother’s keeper.

Men and women with good intentions must rethink the need for such weapons. Access to these weapons by the deranged and mentally unstable must be made more difficult.

I had the pleasure of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the big screen at Coleman Theater and seeing “A Christmas Carol” by the Stained Glass Theater group in the days following the shooting. The productions gave me some soul-clearing perspective on life. So did the milestone of 1 million hours of volunteer service in Joplin since the tornado.

“Mankind is our business,” said the ghost of Christmas past. Indeed. “Strange isn’t it? One man’s life touches so many other lives,” said Clarence the angel. Yes, it does.

The common good — not just individual rights — must be considered when our society makes decisions. With rights comes responsibility to those of us who “do most of the working and paying and living and dying.” I shall die, as will all of you. Somehow, I don’t fear that I’ll meet my maker any sooner if my house is not turned into a bunker.

“Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.” As it is in God’s heart, it should be in ours.

John Cox is a Joplin physician.

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