I'm old enough to remember when the NRA was invited into our schools to educate students on gun safety. Yes, I'm old, and I grew up in rural Alaska, but the NRA as an institution has changed as much as everything else has since then. It now operates as a lobby for gun manufacturers rather than for responsible gun owners who grew up with the traditions of hunting and shooting.
It has blamed everything from video games, to Hollywood to "gun-free zones" for escalating gun violence in the country. In 2010, the NRA held its convention in North Carolina in a location where guns were banned. Its cheery note to attendees told them to leave their guns at home. It seemed fine enough with a "gun-free zone" then. Charlotte Allen blames (the brutal mass murder in Newtown, Conn., last week on) a lack of men and the "over-feminization" of our school system. Autism and mental health have been blamed. A godless tolerance for homosexuals has been faulted. Several people have said God wouldn't show up in public schools where he's not wanted. Apparently, he's still smarting from the lack of audible prayer, so he allowed the shooting to happen.
One week after the massacre, the NRA, in a paranoid fit, proposed changes. Let's have more guns in schools! Armed guards have been present at many massacres and haven't been able to stop them. And who is supposed to pay for the wages and benefits for armed guards at every school in the nation? "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," says the NRA. It's a nice advertisement for gun sales but it's ludicrous. The bad guy in Tuscon, Ariz., who shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was stopped because he was reloading. Should we have armed guards everywhere there has been a mass shooting? Schools, malls, theaters, grocery stores and churches? Are they proposing a jobs bill?
"If only those teachers had a gun," laments the NRA. At a time when teachers are blamed for far more than what is in their control, and for being "union thugs," you want them to carry a weapon? Seriously? Think about that for a minute. A company in Utah had profits jump 500 percent this week by selling BULLET-PROOF BACKPACKS FOR CHILDREN. Children should not be shouldering the panic. The best thing about little children is they haven't figured out yet that some people want to hurt them. Times have changed. If you're not a cynic by third grade, you're not paying attention.
I'm worried that again nothing will happen in the face of a great problem. The violence that destroyed so many lives in Newtown, Conn., has changed the discussion in this country on gun control, but will that be enough this time?
In Alaska, many of us need guns to fill our freezers, but if you need a 30-round clip you're a pretty poor hunter. If you are hoarding automatic (yes, they are legal) or semi-automatic weapons, you need Viagra.
Oh, that's right, it's about the "well-regulated militia." The Second Amendment was written by men who had fought alongside men who didn't survive their revolt against tyranny. They had the assistance of the French government. They used muskets. If you think it is your right or duty to overthrow the government at this point in time, you're going to need more than a few guns and monster clips. You'll need weapons-grade uranium, a few tanks, a submarine and an army of your own to go up against our 3 million strong military. You very well may need the aid of another country. Good luck with that, and I think your three-cornered hat may be on a little too tight. The same founders who thought a militia was a good idea would never have expanded gun ownership to blacks. The whole slavery situation could have gotten awkward quickly.
So the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of kindergarteners, mall shoppers and moviegoers? Is that freedom?
I'm not advocating for no guns. I like mine and am not about to give them up. But in this country, my uterus is more regulated than my guns. Birth control and reproductive health services are harder to get than bullets. What is that about? Guns don't kill people -- vaginas do?
When the cottonwood is flying and Alaskans are all lined up for Sudafed, we have to get it from a pharmacist, give them our identification, and the state keeps track of how much we're consuming just so they're sure we're not running a meth lab. I get it, meth is bad, but I can buy bullets right off the shelf.
One hundred percent of passengers on an airplane go through screening checkpoints, but 40 percent of gun purchases are made without background checks through the loophole that allows purchase at gun shows, many of which are held in schools.
Last Christmas a class of kindergarteners caught snowflakes on their tongues and spent the holidays with loving families. This year, no stockings are needed. There is no way to know, if we'd had the much-needed conversation years ago, that the tragedy in Newtown could have been avoided. But we owe it to them to have it now.
Originally printed in the Anchorage Daily News.