On guns, courage is needed

The story is not a local one. But the repercussions resonate here in the Bayou Region, as they do throughout the nation.

Seventeen students and employees at Florida Stoneman Douglas High School are dead. They are the victims of an obviously deranged young man, who was armed with a weapon commonly referred to as an assault rifle.

It is a branding that makes the NRA cringe, and it is, granted, not technically correct.

The “AR” in “AR-15” does not stand for assault rifle, but is an arms manufacturer’s name. A brand.

That such debates swirl through social networks and on public airwaves at a time of mourning is offensive to any reasonable mind. But as is common, in this society whose dialogue on serious matters has more in common with a high school debate competition than any sincere quest for answers about any public policy matters, syntax takes precedence. Each side plays a zero sum game in an arms race of ideas that have brought us absolutely nowhere.

Meanwhile the bodies pile up.

They don’t just pile up because of school shootings and shootings at the workplace. They pile up on our streets and our highways and in our neighborhoods.

In many cases, particularly in big cities, the deaths are marginally newsworthy, even though things shouldn’t be that way.

When gunfights in neighborhoods become an expected norm rather than an aberration, when shootings at schools lose their shock value, we are in trouble. That trouble cannot be seen as restricted to certain states or cities, it is an much our problem as it is a problem anywhere else.

Our law enforcement and education officials are aware of this. It is the reason why they engage in “active shooter” exercises and drills.

They are, it would appear, doing their part.

But so many of us are not doing are part, in so many ways, and therefore over-drafting our excuses accounts for the day when the chickens come home to roost.

To avoid any potential of being categorized as dog-whistlers, we shall be clear.

Our elected officials — generally — have indicated at various times their desire to not entertain introduction of legislation that addresses holes in our gun laws. Some have indicated, in private discussions, that the risk is great for anyone perceived as being in opposition to the gun lobbyists.

This has to stop.

It is true that in the wake of this most recent tragedy there have been recorded what can be described as knee-jerk responses. But the knees jerk on both sides of the issue, not just one.

So-called assault rifle do have legitimate applications for sportsmen. Feral hog hunting is one that comes to mind.

But it is also true that in Louisiana, as most other states, safeguards that would keep legally-purchased guns out of hands that belong to bodies with diseased minds are woefully inadequate.

Currently, the only guaranteed way for someone to be identified as having a history of mental illness is for them to be committed to one of the very small number of inpatient facilities that exist in our state.

People with multiple commitments for evaluation at Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center are not placed in any databases that would keep them from getting their hands on legal guns, interviews with administrators that have resulted in articles that ran on these very pages indicate.

This is because the state laws that could provide certain definitions and criteria do not exist.

But they could.

Laws that would provide penalties for people stupid enough — yes we will say it, rude as it sounds , stupid enough — to keep weapons in their vehicles overnight with doors unlocked are not under consideration at the state or parish levels.

The Second Amendment is as important and vita to our way of life as all other aspects of the Bill of Rights.

But it is not any more important than any of the others, either. And all have been subjected to scrutiny.

Locally and at the state level we need to courageously approach what changes we can make that will protect those rights where existing, while ensuring a margin of safety for ourselves and our children.

The tie to start examining those options is now, not after the tragedy strikes.