Torn by guilt and fearing he had only a short time left to live, Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the AK-47 assault rifle that bears his name, wrote a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
"The pain in my soul is unbearable," wrote Mr. Kalashnikov. "I keep asking myself the same unsolvable question: If my assault rifle took people’s lives, it means that I, Mikhail Kalashnikov, son of a farmer and Orthodox Christian am responsible for people’s deaths." Mr. Kalashnikov died in December at 94, and the letter written in 2012 was published last week by the Russian daily Izvestia, which received it from his daughter, Elena.
In fairness to Mr. Kalashnikov, he designed the weapon for use by the Russian military to defend his homeland. He could not have known that the Soviet Union would sell AK-47s to Third World dictators so their militias could slaughter women and children. He could not have anticipated that his invention would become the weapon of choice for terrorists, drug dealers and even common criminals. The U.S. congressmen who voted to lift the ban on assault weapons knowing full well who had need of these weapons should bear more guilt than that Mr. Kalashnikov evidently carried to the grave.
Just as Mr. Kalashnikov could not have anticipated the evil uses his rifle would be put to, the Founders who gave us the Second Amendment -- which it bears repeating begins with the words "A well-regulated ..." -- could not have anticipated the AK-47, handguns, or any other form of modern weaponry. Nor could they have anticipated that the weapons used in their time to shoot deer and redcoats would evolve into weapons used routinely to cripple and massacre innocent Americans.
The latest school shooting, in which a 12-year-old boy pulled a shotgun out of a band instrument case and seriously wounded two students in a New Mexico middle school last week, barely registered on the public consciousness. The story that will have more legs is shaping up as Florida’s latest "stand your ground" tragedy, featuring a retired police officer who used the handgun he brought with him to a movie theater to kill a fellow patron who had been texting. The officer evidently feared for his life because the texter tossed a box of popcorn at him.
The craven coward George Zimmerman, acquitted by a jury after he stalked and shot to death an unarmed black youth, Trayvon Martin, set the stage for the likes of Curtis Reeves, who killed Chad Oulson in a movie theater in Wesley Chapel, Florida Tuesday. Mr. Oulson, who was with his wife, texted their baby-sitter, an act that enraged Mr. Reeves. The men argued, and according to the police report, Mr. Reeves shot Mr. Oulson in the chest not long after Mr. Oulson tossed the popcorn at him. Mr. Oulson’s wife was wounded in the hand when she tried to block the shot.
Mr. Reeves was charged with second-degree murder but his attorney pulled the "stand your ground" law card by asserting that his client felt threatened and was defending himself, evidently against a hurled movie snack. This being Florida, where it is dangerous to walk while black or attend a movie, it can be assumed that Mr. Reeves will end up as free as is Mr. Zimmerman, pending his next domestic scrap.
But this incident should not be written off as just the latest bit of nonsense or perversity to emerge from Florida. Angry and/or disturbed men with weapons are a national problem, as was seen in Newtown, Connecticut, and the legislators who do nothing about it are their enablers. The day may come when, like Mr. Kalashnikov, they too are troubled by their consciences.