Nobody listens to me, or any other gun-control advocate, about what to do about our escalating gun-violence crisis. So when will the responsible gun owners speak out?
Hey, gun owners: It’s up to you.
Now at first when I started this letter, I wrote: “It’s on you.” But that’s not right. Mass shootings are no more your fault than mine. No need for me to get all accusatory from the get-go.
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But I also know you’re out there, that huge majority of what the National Rifle Association (NRA) likes to call “responsible gun owners.” My brother, an avid hunter, is one. My friend here in Seattle who took me and my son out to the shooting range in Kenmore is another. It’s true what they say about you: Tens of millions of gun owners are law-abiding folks who have never shot anyone and never will.
I plead with you today because we’re in a slow-rolling crisis. And also because nobody is going to listen to me.
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They didn’t listen to me after 20 first-graders were gunned down at Sandy Hook, or after the Café Racer shootings in Seattle, or after a Mukilteo 19-year-old was permitted to buy a semi-automatic Ruger AR-15 for which he had to read the instructions to mow down three classmates, or even after a string of kids got their tiny hands on guns and shot themselves.
Each time I wrote that something was fundamentally off here — something with our culture, sure, but also something we might pragmatically fix or start to curtail. All without crimping anyone’s rights to own a gun.
I was ignored. But you, you responsible gun owners — they might listen to you.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about: The shooter in Las Vegas may have used a gun accessory called a “bump stock” that converts a semi-automatic rifle into one that can shoot up to 800 rounds per minute. That’s more than 10 bullets per second. So, effectively, he had machine guns. Legally.
Why are these OK, responsible gun owners? They were selling as fast as fidget spinners Tuesday on Armslist, the online-gun classifieds. At Cabela’s they were sold out. One bump-stock maker’s promotional video shows a man, “a patriot,” using the device to spray bullets into the night. Take away the ad’s chest-beating voice-over about birthrights and founding fathers, add some screams and it sounds exactly like the rapid fire of the Las Vegas massacre.
A bump stock works by vibrating the gun against the trigger finger, so it’s for spraying bullets, not precision shooting. Is this responsible, responsible gun owners? Why are we building, selling, promoting a device that turns a target-shooting gun into a mass-shooting weapon?
Over the years I’ve heard some of you say, privately, that the gun industry has gone off the rails, and it’s making you all look like nuts.
So would you please speak out? Now? Tell the NRA you don’t want bump stocks to be legal anymore. Tell them nobody nonmilitary needs an ammo magazine with more than five or 10 bullets. The Las Vegas shooter apparently had some with 50; with the bump stock, he could empty those into the crowd in about four seconds.
I’m begging you here. It’s not just about Vegas. As I was writing this, my daughter texted to say her high school in Seattle was on lockdown (again). Turns out there was a rolling gunbattle between two cars down Cherry Street at 11 on a sunny morning. The shots shattered a classroom window of another school across the street.
This shooting, about the 300th of the year in Seattle, was probably gang-related, with the shots fired from stolen guns. Again, none of this is your fault, responsible gun owners. Except … whenever a simple gun-storage law comes up, the NRA kills that, too. You lock up your guns already, I know. But a law requiring it for everyone would make it incrementally tougher for gangs to steal guns. Yet we won’t even do that.
Maybe we won’t do a thing after this latest massacre either. Once we shrugged off the mass murder of first-graders, our ambivalence was pegged.
But that’s just my embittered view. As I said, nobody listens to me on this issue. They might listen, though, to you. To responsible gun owners. Can you earn that adjective? Whatever ideas you’ve got, a traumatized nation aches for them.
If we’re going to pull out of this brutal and escalating cycle, no pressure, but it falls to you.