Friday December 28, 2012

PITTSFIELD

What are we going to do to stop -- or at least slow down -- gun violence?

And perhaps the bigger, more pertinent question is can we do anything? Can the country come together to somehow regulate this mayhem?

I admit it: I have grave doubts. If you think the abortion debate is contentious, start talking guns with either side of the issue.

The irony is that like most heated arguments, each side believes it is correct and that it’s the other guys who are nuts.

I think, for example, if one wants to see real change in the laws, the anti-gun troops have to move away from characterizing people who own weapons as "gun nuts" or "crazies." A vast majority of people who buy guns aren’t crazy. They are law-abiding citizens who enjoy hunting or target shooting. Their target of choice is not a 5-year-old.

But they resent the implication and tend to tune out arguments after that. Right or wrong, you have to get these two sides to the table before you can talk.

I think I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating. Up until the 1960s, many area high schools had gun clubs. Former Lee police chief Ron Glidden recalled the members of the club brought their guns to school and stored them in their lockers. Some even just toted them around with them until the end of the day when the club would meet.

Yes, it’s odd to think that was the norm, but that was only maybe 40 or 50 years ago.

Many of my relatives on my mother’s side of the family hunted. When I was in high school and later at Berkshire Community College, my classmates would take a few days off to hunt in the woods.

I’ve heard a lot of suggestions, but most, if not all, are generally rejected by gun advocates. These folks tend to be conservative, and any attempt by the government to try to regulate any aspect of their lives is met with concern.

I heard a riff by comedian Chris Rock that made sense in an odd way. Rock advocated taxing bullets -- heavily. If, for example, a box of bullets cost several thousand dollars, the temptation to spray a room filled with innocent bystanders would be a lot more costly. Since I heard Rock’s monologue, I’ve heard the suggestion put forward by others.

It seems to be something worth considering at least. If one comes at this issue from the ammunition standpoint, the gun debate gets a little less contentious, at least as I see it. I don’t know what the ramifications for law-abiding gun owners would be.

It would also price hunters out of their pastime. And I don’t have a problem with hunters, so there might have to be legislation to somehow protect them.

The bigger issue is that these attacks seem to be getting more vicious. Twenty children and six adults, plus the shooter’s mother and him, in Connecticut, and then a few days later, two firefighters in western New York. On Christmas Eve. I don’t know if these shooters were making a conscious effort to top each other, but I can assure you, the fact that both happened during the holiday season was not an accident.

So if something isn’t done, well, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that the incidents will be more horrifying. Maybe a children’s choir in a church, or a maternity ward. The intent by these nutjobs is to inflict as much pain and suffering on the part of the victims and their families as possible.

It’s a fractured world out there these days, and in order to straighten it out, both sides of this issue have to agree to talk respectfully.

Derek Gentile is an Eagle staff writer.
Follow him on Twitter at @DerekGentile.