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December 21, 2012

Forum: Now is time to fight gun lobby

The aftershocks of another mass shooting are rippling across the landscape. Twenty-seven more dead, this time most are young children. Shocking but certainly not surprising, given the abundance of weapons and their unfettered availability in our society.

This time the news is from an elementary school in Connecticut. Before that it came from a mall in Oregon, from a temple in Wisconsin, and a movie theater in Colorado. In the past year similar events occurred countless times all around the country. Unless something is done, shootings like these will happen again and again, anywhere and everywhere. Random, senseless shootings carried out by unstable personalities in very public settings.

We speak of the evil of terrorism and usually we mean some fanatic from another culture or a home-grown anti-government type. But make no mistake; these mass shootings are the very essence of the meaning of terrorism.

In restaurants, theaters, schools and shopping malls we are becoming increasingly aware of the possibility of sudden violence erupting. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is no public place — not even churches or schools — where we and our loved ones are safe from this type of event.

How many more lives are we willing to sacrifice? How many more of these mass shootings are we willing to endure before going out to a movie or restaurant feels like a high-risk activity? Isn't this what terrorism is all about? Not just random, unexpected violence but also the threat of it — a threat that settles into our collective psyche and affects how we live our lives.

Now is the time to do something about the gun laws in this country. We are far beyond the point that the constitutional right to bear arms should prevent us from taking steps to curb this madness. It is time to proclaim that this right must be balanced with our unalienable rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". These rights are being eroded by the gun violence occurring every day all over this country.

The argument that any restriction on the right to acquire and possess any weapon desired constitutes an infringement of the 2nd amendment (and a government plot to take away all weapons) is ludicrous. As ludicrous as a system that allows virtually anyone to buy any weapon desired, and that increasingly makes it permissible to carry weapons into public places.

Sure, the many politicians caught in the economic grip of the gun lobby will say new laws won't make any difference. That's because they cannot envision passing a law that will make a difference. The threat from that powerful lobby blinds them to what is possible.

Now is the time to contact our elected officials and demand that action be taken. It is time to demand that they find the courage to stand up to the powerful gun lobby. And if they cannot find that courage, it is time we elect representatives who can and will.

About the author: Peter Raphael teaches in Traverse City for Ferris State University and is a former attorney. He lives in Traverse City.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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