How about my rights?
Yesterday, as I stood in line at a restaurant to pay my check, I felt a cold chill. I was a sitting duck, an easy target for any disturbed person with a gun.
I checked those around me. None looked weird or crazy. But then, neither did Aaron Alexis, responsible for the mass shooting at the Navy yard Monday, where 12 employees on coffee break were killed. Perhaps it was only because of that recent carnage that I felt so vulnerable.
Or maybe it was because there has been the equivalent of a mass shooting (defined as four or more victims) every day in the United States since Sandy Hook. Did the patrons at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., last July feel impending doom moments before they died? I doubt the elementary school children in Connecticut had any foreshadowing that their lives were about to end. More than 30 of the murders took place in shopping malls and restaurants. Is it the sheer numbers and the random nature of mass killings that are finally the tipping point for me?
I do know one thing. I am appalled more than 90 percent of Americans favor some form of background checks for firearm purchases, particularly at gun shows, yet Congress does nothing.
Current weak laws didn’t keep Alexis, who had been treated since August for mental problems and who had been arrested twice, from legally purchasing a gun. Seung-Hui Cho, who massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech, had been deemed mentally ill by a judge and was still able to purchase a gun. I am really angry that the 1994 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, which banned military-style assault weapons for a decade, was allowed to expire despite arduous efforts for its renewal. Approximately 1.7 million people were denied guns as felons or adjudicated mentally ill because of that law. And I am tired of the National Rifle Association saying guns don’t kill people (yes, they do, if someone pulls the trigger) or that all it takes is one “good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.” Really? There were plenty of good guys with guns at the Navy yard Monday. And I am tired of the NRA continually leaning on the Constitution as their endmost argument against any kind of reasonable gun control.
I am not against guns. They are inanimate objects. I am against the criminal use of them unchecked by reasonable regulation. I come from a military family. I grew up with guns. I am comfortable around them, and I support the right of hunters to own rifles. So stop trying to distract me with arguments about gangs and violent video games and the Second Amendment (we are not housing militia, and it is not the Revolutionary War).
I know intelligent gun control works. All you have to do is look at Australia. In 1996, the killing of nearly 100 people capped a violent decade of mass shootings. Twelve days later, laws banning assault rifles, tightening gun-owner licensing and creating national uniform registration standards went into effect. The risk of dying by gunshot in Australia has since fallen by more than 50 percent. The national rate of gun homicide is one-thirtieth that of the United States. And there hasn’t been a single mass shooting.
What about my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness demanded by the Declaration of Independence in 1776? According to the declaration, when a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them … it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such. What would you call imminent vulnerability to death by gun other than an abuse and an usurpation of my right to the pursuit of happiness?
According to the declaration, (King George) has refused for a long time to cause others to be elected … made judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of their offices … erected a multitude of new offices (check the anti-gun control members of the House of Representatives) and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people. What else would you call pouring millions of dollars by a very few billionaires into campaigns against candidates who support gun control in order to “punish” them? He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies … giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation. (I consider the numbers of holders of illegal guns the equivalent of a standing army; there are currently 200 million privately owned guns in the United States, according to the FBI.)
The declaration goes on: In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. Indeed, I, along with the majority, have begged, pleaded and demanded that Congress enact intelligent gun restrictions. Repeatedly, we are ignored and even attacked by those we petition, in the form of assertions that those of us for reasonable gun control measures are anti-Constitution or anti-American. I am neither.
Finally, the declaration states: We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity … They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity. I certainly feel that those who appear to love guns more than people are indeed deaf to the voice of justice.
So, I want my rights under the Declaration of Independence. I want the liberty to stand in line at a theater and not dread that at any moment, I will be shot. I want the freedom to trust that my fellow human beings have my best interest at heart along with theirs. I want my pursuit of happiness, in whatever form that takes, to be unencumbered by those whose unbalanced mental states tells them that their pursuit of happiness lies in massacring others. I want life, my life and those of my children and grandchildren. I do not want to live in fear that those precious lives can be taken from me in a nanosecond of insanity.
I declare under the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Now.
Lynn Wenzel lives in Grass Valley.
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