Hard lessons on adopting an attitude of gratitude

In Texas, August can be a brutally hot month. This past August was simply brutal.

On Aug. 3, a gunman shot and killed 22 people and wounded 24 others at an El Paso Walmart. Then, on the month’s final day, another shooter drove around Midland and Odessa, killing seven people and wounding 25.

The two perpetrators had nothing in common, save their method of delivering death and mayhem. One apparently hated Hispanic people, while the other was said to have been angry about losing his job.

But the common denominator in both tragic incidents is the fact the murders were carried out with firearms.

The day after the El Paso shooting several new gun laws took effect in Texas, loosening restrictions as to where or when guns can be carried.

As of Nov. 1, Oklahoma will follow suit, unless the state Supreme Court says otherwise. On that date a new law is scheduled to go into effect that will allow any Oklahoman over 21 who meets the legal requirements to own a firearm to carry said gun with the weapon concealed or in the open.

No license, permit or training will be required to own and/or carry a firearm in the state after Nov. 1.

A petition aimed at stopping implementation of the so-called Constitutional Carry law has been turned over to the state Supreme Court to make sure it contains the requisite 60,000 valid signatures. If the initiative petition is ruled valid, it will bring Constitutional Carry to a vote of the people in 2020.

The gun debate is perhaps the hottest of hot-button issues, sure to inflame passions on both sides of the discussion.

When there is a mass shooting somewhere, which it seems is happening with increasingly frightening regularity these days, those on the left call for tighter gun laws, while those on the right begin sounding warnings that “they want to take our guns away.”

Ours will never be a gun-free society. The American penchant for firearms is too firmly entrenched in our history and culture. So let’s take the whole gun confiscation talk off the table, shall we? The constitution says Americans have a right to have guns, so be it. That is not going to change.

But can’t we meet somewhere in the middle? Can’t we start taking a hard look at weapons like the AR-15, which has been used in mass shootings in places like Las Vegas, Newtown, Conn., and Parkland, Fla.? Does an average citizen need a weapon that can, according to the Bushmaster AR-15 manual, fire up to 45 rounds per minute? To me it seems a bit like driving the kids to school in a Bugatti Chiron, a sports car which was recently clocked at 304 miles per hour over a closed course. Flashy? Certainly. Fun? No doubt. But practical? Hardly.

Speaking of cars, why can’t our gun laws reflect our requirements for driving a car? Not that we are doing a great job of keeping our highways safe. There are some 40,000 people killed every year on American roads, more than 650 of them last year in Oklahoma alone.

But think how much worse it would be if driver’s education courses and licenses were not required?

If the Constitutional Carry law goes into effect in Oklahoma, we will be facing totally unregulated, unrestricted ownership and use of firearms. Any ninny like me who doesn’t even know where the bullets go could be turned loose with one.

Why can’t we require that all guns, like our automobiles, be registered? Why can’t we make it mandatory for all gun owners to obtain and carry a license, and in order to obtain said license to undergo training in the proper, safe use of firearms.

If you can’t pass the driver’s test, you don’t get a license.

The same thing should be true of guns.

Granted, training someone to handle and shoot a gun won’t ensure their safety or the safety of anyone else. Cars must be registered and licensed and drivers must have training and obtain an operator’s permit and every year on America’s roads we still kill darn near enough people to populate Enid.

Many folks will hate the idea. Licenses and training will cost money. Similarly, nobody likes to buy car tags or pay for driver’s licenses. But like those of us who want to legally drive cars, they will get over it.

You would never hand your kids the keys to the family car if they didn’t have one good clue how to handle the vehicle. So why would you let them have a gun under the same circumstances? Automobiles and guns, if used and maintained properly, are tools as well as objects that can bring the operator pleasure. But if used improperly, each can likewise become a killing machine.

This would certainly not be a cure-all, but it would at least be a start. It is time for those on both sides of the gun debate to pull in their horns, cool the rhetoric and begin looking for some kind of common ground.

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Mullin is an award-winning writer and columnist who retired in 2017 after 41 years with the News & Eagle. Email him at janjeff2002@yahoo.com or write him in care of the Enid News & Eagle at PO Box 1192, Enid, OK, 73702.

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