The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 14, 2012

Mike Pound: It’s time to talk about gun laws

By Mike Pound

— I apologize to anyone who turned to this column today to get away from the awful news on the front page.

Normally, that’s what I’m supposed to do here: Give folks a break from the serious stuff. I’m basically the paper’s equivalent of a court jester.

But I don’t feel much like being a court jester today. And I’m pretty sure you don’t feel like reading court jester material. As I type this, horrific news reports from the scene of Friday’s school shooting are playing on the TV near my desk. Even if I wanted to play the court jester today I don’t think I would be able to do so. I don’t feel like being funny right now.

What’s funny about a supposed advanced civilization unable to protect its children?

In the past, I’ve been one of those folks who has said in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, such as the one that occurred on Friday, that it is the wrong time to talk about gun control. But lately I’ve begun to rethink that position. It seems to me that if we can’t talk about gun control after a tragedy like Friday’s school shooting, then when can we?

Look, I’m not smart enough to know how much gun control is enough. I also understand that many folks will say that the problem is not that we don’t have sufficient gun laws in this country, it’s that we don’t enforce the laws we have.

That may be true, I don’t know. But if there are existing gun laws that could have prevented Friday’s shooting, but weren’t enforced, then let’s talk about those laws and figure out how to enforce them. If there are other laws that aren’t in place that would have prevented the shooting, let’s talk about those.

I understand that most gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding people who take their right to own weapons seriously. So let’s talk about those people and how we can protect their rights while still protecting our children.

The point is, if we can’t talk about gun control after what happened on Friday, then I’m not sure we ever will. And, when I say “talk” about gun control I mean just that. Simple saying, “No to all guns” or “No to all gun control” is not talking.

Talking about gun control means admitting that it might be OK for folks to have access to certain weapons while at the same time admitting that it might be OK to deny other folks access to certain weapons.

As I write this, it’s unclear what types of guns or how many were involved in Friday’s shooting. It’s also unclear if the suspect in the shooting acted alone or if he had help. It’s unclear what prompted the shooting. Those questions obviously need to be addressed.

It’s reasonable, also, to examine the way we treat mental illness in this country. Was there a failure in the system that allowed the suspect in yesterday’s shooting to go undetected. Was there treatment available for the suspect that could have prevented him from carrying out yesterday’s shooting?

If so, we need to talk about that.

Look, for the past several weeks our politicians and the big-time media folks have been yammering pretty much nonstop about the so called “fiscal cliff.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could take all of the energy that has been put into trying to solve it and use that energy to do something important. To do something that we all agree we need to do.

Protect our children.