We hear this refrain each time a mass shooting occurs in such divergent places as Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, or a supermarket parking lot in a suburb of Tuscon, Arizona.
And yet, as the list above illustrates, the desire to stop such shootings seems to outstrip our ability to prevent them. Just this Friday there was another shooting reported at the branch location of a community college campus in Christiansburg, Virginia.
Critics on the left are quick to attribute this frustrating lack of progress in preventing mass shootings to our nation's regressive gun laws. Although there is some truth to this claim, most of these critics display an open disdain for anyone owning a gun (regardless of type) that mirrors the disdain for religion often displayed by these same critics. Self-professed liberal and gun owner Dan Baum addresses this problem to a certain extent in his recent book Gun Guys.
In stark contrast to liberal critics of our nation's gun laws are those voluble defenders of gun rights such as the NRA who not only want more people to own guns but also make the same mistake as their opponents. Every gun to them is the same.
Ignorance of firearms is one of key handicaps in the current gun control debates. Since the abolition of the draft in 1973, fewer Americans receive firearms training through the armed forces. Moreover, even though U.S. Fish and Wildlife Statistics show an increase in hunting licenses in 2011, those licenses reflect a small cross-section of the larger population. In addition, the majority of hunters surveyed (73%) are over the age of 35 suggesting that such growth trends are ultimately unsustainable.
While congress is busy wrangling over legislation that would expand background checks for gun purchasers and would limit the types of weapons that ordinary citizens could buy, it's time for ordinary citizens to educate themselves about firearms.
The reasons people purchase firearms are as diverse as the types of weapons manufactured. Until we realize this as a nation, any gun legislation proposed is doomed to fail.