The elementary school my child attends has a new addition this year: a big bulletproof interior wall and doorway blocking the lobby from the classrooms.
I was sad to see it, but grateful, too. When my daughter started her first day of kindergarten several years ago, there was a massive police presence at every school in the Santa Clarita Valley because someone (it turned out to be a juvenile) made a shooting threat on Instagram.
Both of my kids spent their toddler years learning to play “Hide the Bunnies,” which is the euphemism their teachers used for drills involving the entire daycare class hiding in a closet from a school shooter.
We live in an age when that is more tolerable than restricting weapons of mass murder. We build schools like prisons, locking the children inside immense, shatter-proof doors because the gun-toting crazies are the ones politicians prefer feel free.
By “crazies,” I don’t just mean the criminals who would open fire on a classroom, or a church, or a concert. The more common crazies are the ones who have made these mass slayings easier to pull off by resisting even basic, common-sense gun regulations.
What does “common sense” mean? It means that any tool that can be altered by a sick old man and used to kill 58 people and wound 489 in a span of minutes from 1,300 feet away should be outlawed. It shouldn’t be manufactured or sold for civilian use in the United States of America.
Not just the “bump stock” that turned it into an automatic weapon, but the AR-15 itself – a favorite of mass murderers, also used in the 2012 Newtown schoolhouse massacre – shouldn’t be manufactured or sold for civilian use.
This shouldn’t be controversial. AK-47s and AR-15s (originally known as the M-16 when it was designed for military use) are meant for the battlefield, not our streets. They’re weapons designed solely for mass killing. Nowhere in America is safe now, thanks to the diligent work of the NRA and the politicians it has bought.
Right now, gun nuts reading this are sputtering about the Second Amendment. But the first three words in the Second Amendment are: “A well regulated. …”
That’s the part they love to ignore, as much as they worship this law, which was penned at a time when guns held one bullet and took several minutes to reload. It was no more intended to cover assault rifles designed for mass killing on the battlefield than it was intended to grant personal ownership of Tomahawk missiles.
We should respect that law, but that means respecting all of it. Decent Americans must insist their leaders honor that phrase intended to prevent the reckless spread of killing devices: “well regulated.”
The truth is those who defend the proliferation of assault weapons don’t want them for safety or for hunting. You want a handgun? Fine. You want a hunting rifle? Fine.
But unless you’re a soldier or a SWAT team member, there is no reason any private citizen should own a tool that allows a madman to slaughter 20 first-graders while simultaneously taking out the six teachers who rush forward to stop him.
Most assault-weapon enthusiasts defend these weapons because they enjoy them as toys. They aren’t defending themselves from hordes of home invaders; they’re endangering innocent Americans with their “hobby” by making mass-murder tools easier to stockpile than Sudafed.
Others will say, “People die in car crashes; should we ban cars?” This is such a shallow argument it’s barely worth addressing. It also ignores the fact that cars are subject to more intense regulation than almost any other object you could own.
There is much our country could do – more than I have room to list here. Many other nations, Australia chief among them, have already led the way, protecting gun ownership while eliminating mass-murder tools. All of us who care about this issue must vote.
Our congressman, Steve Knight, has spent his entire political career fighting against every single bill designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals or the insane. That is not an exaggeration.
In February, he lied to the faces of hundreds of constituents at a Palmdale town hall when he said, “I support background checks.” Like hell. As a state assemblyman, he voted against a bill (SB 53) requiring background checks to prevent criminals from stockpiling ammunition, along with other votes to protect high-capacity magazines and against expanding the list of crimes that disqualify an individual from firearm ownership (SB 755.)
In January, he cast one of his most disgraceful votes: to dissolve an Obama-era restriction that would have prevented the severely mentally unstable from purchasing firearms.
Knight is also co-sponsor of a bill that would allow anyone from any state to conceal carry – and the bill has been denounced by the nation’s top law enforcement officials, including LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, who say it puts cop lives at further risk. Given that Knight is an ex-cop himself, the danger he is adding to his brothers and sisters in uniform is unforgivable.
Check out Knight’s record on VoteSmart.org for the evidence. As our district mourns for those here who lost their lives or were wounded in the nightmarish massacre in Las Vegas, we owe it to the dead – not just from this attack, but countless others from before it – to look into the mirror.
America is the only advanced nation on Earth where this happens regularly. And it’s because we allow elected officials like Steve Knight to weaken our safety and protection in service to gun manufacturer profits.
Al Qaeda has released videos urging followers to take advantage of America’s lax gun laws and buy weapons for mass killings. We saw some of these sick followers take up that calling in the 2015 San Bernardino shootings. There’s no question now: the NRA has enabled terrorism in America. And it keeps pushing for more.
Thankfully, we’re hearing from more and more responsible gun owners who are reconsidering membership in a group advocating such deadly, reckless policies.
Knight will never change his mind, and that’s why he has to go in 2018. He has spoken at events under the banner “Friends of the NRA.” Meanwhile, the NRA is the friend of every lunatic who decides to unleash his inner pain by opening fire on innocent Americans.
Anthony Breznican is a Santa Clarita Valley resident.