Guest Editorial: Extremism on all sides muddies gun debate

Farmington Daily Times
Guest Editorial

America has produced Generation Columbine. Let that sink in. Our young people have never known a reality without school shootings.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people Feb. 14 was the 208th school shooting since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., says USA Today.
That’s a national disgrace. It is a failure to protect young people.
Anger is easy. Demonizing your opponent is easy. But we won’t fix this with round 208 of the guns vs. gun-control debate.
You are part of the problem if you think arming teachers is the way to fight fire with more firepower.
In school shooting after school shooting, the carnage was fast, deliberate and did not provide time for a teacher to get a weapon from a safe location and respond before people died. Even the presence of a trained, armed school resource officer in the latest carnage in Florida did not help.
We have to do more than accept that violence as a new normal. A civil society where personal liberty is valued should not have to be maintained at gunpoint. We need to ask tough questions about the breakdown of our society.
You are part of the problem if you think National Rifle Association contributions alone have turned politicians into sheep who won’t support gun control. There are 300 million guns in this country. Guns have been part of our cultural DNA from the frontiersman to the Wild West to modern day.
The opposition to gun control is rooted in this country’s long-standing love affair with guns. People have a constitutional right to keep guns. There are legitimate uses to hunt, for recreational shooting and for self protection. 
We have to do more than vilify responsible gun owners and dismiss their hobbies as perverse and their motives as nefarious.
You are part of the problem if you deny the breathtaking lethality of guns that are easily obtained and commonly used in mass killings today.
Bullets from an AR-15 enter the body at higher velocity. They are more lethal – and these rifles can fire quickly without reloading.
We have to acknowledge that many of today’s weapons are designed to do exactly what mass murderers want to do: mow down as many innocent people as possible as fast as possible. We have to ask hard questions about whether they should be so readily available.
You are part of the problem if you insist that only stricter gun control laws can stop the mass shootings.
This is a complex problem with many facets. Guns are the tool. People become the killers. Untreated mental illness has played a role in shooting after shooting, and the latest is no exception. 
The debate over what to do about mass shootings has been held captive by special interests who argued while the Columbine Generation grew up. Now those young people are rallying and taking their call for change to social media.
“The adults in power right now aren’t doing anything,” said Paloma Mallan, a high school student from Virginia who protested in Washington D.C. Feb. 21. “It could be us next. It could be our friends.”
The adults in charge should recognize a shared goal that transcends the “cold, dead fingers” rants and the "blood on their hands" analogies. This isn't about shaming and blaming. It's about being part of the solution.
The Arizona Republic, Feb. 26