Three lives are gone, three families shattered, and dozens of lives changed forever.

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GUNS are awesome machines.

Built with great precision, advanced over generations, they are powerful tools for their purpose. Practicing with them brings the pleasure and satisfaction that comes with honing difficult skills. The enforcers of our laws use them to stop the criminals who threaten our lives and property. Our military uses them to kill and contain the violent enemies of our nation. As with any fine machine, looking at a gun, possessing one or working with one is exciting and empowering.

This is what guns are not:

‘My take’

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In the hands of civilians, they are not protection from crime. Unless you wear a uniform with a badge or a service patch on it, the gun you carry is more likely to kill you or someone you know or love than it is to kill anyone who threatens you or your loved ones. The “good guy with a gun” who will protect us, rather than threaten us, is the man or woman who has been screened, trained, authorized and empowered by us to do the job. Anyone else, no matter how well-intentioned, is an amateur at best and a hazard to the rest of us at worst. The past 40 years in the United States has been a massive experiment in the theory that a highly armed citizenry will make us safer, and the experiment has been an abysmal failure.

In the hands of civilians, guns are not a bulwark against tyranny. If you believe that guns are a remedy against an oppressive government, then you are on the side of the black man who perceived “his” people being abused by government agents and chose to strike back with a gun. You are on the side of the troubled white man who, 52 years earlier, wanted to bring down the elected government he viewed as corrupt. Dallas is what Second Amendment remedies look like in practice: dead police officers, a dead president.

Many of you, my friends and family, own firearms. I do not want you to surrender your guns. I do not want the government to confiscate them. But I do want you to help address the problem of so many deaths caused by these awesome machines. An informed, engaged electorate is what protects us from tyranny. Stop pretending this problem does not exist or that the only solution is more guns. Do not hide behind “originalist” arguments about the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Late Saturday night, I was awake when I heard multiple sirens in the distance. I felt that frisson of fear that every parent of a young person feels when you let him or her out into the world. Has there been an accident? Was somebody drinking, being a reckless kid? But I immediately relaxed, knowing that on this night both of my boys were already safe at home. Those sirens represented someone else’s pain.

In the morning, I learned three young people were dead, a fourth wounded and a dozen scarred by terror. My boys knew most of them, had gone to school with all of them and had played ball with some of them.

Another young person had possessed an awesome machine, a machine that no doubt had given him a sense of satisfaction, safety and power. A neighbor’s security camera recorded the mere seconds it took for that machine in the hands of that young man to break so many hearts forever.

Three lives are gone, three families shattered and dozens of lives changed forever. These are awesome machines.