By Dahleen Glanton
In the weeks since a deranged gunman walked into a high school in Parkland, Fla., and slaughtered 17 people with an AR-15 assault rifle, some bizarre things involving guns have happened in America.
A teacher in Georgia barricaded himself in a classroom and fired a gun, leading to a frantic lockdown and evacuation of the school.
A suburban Chicago man heard a woman screaming in his apartment building and went to her rescue with an AR-15, and later boasted that the attacker was “a half a breath away from getting his head blown off.”
On the last day of classes before spring break, a 19-year-old Central Michigan University student from south suburban Plainfield allegedly fatally shot his parents in his residence hall when they came to pick him up, according to several media outlets.
The Chicago Tribune reported that the 9 mm Glock handgun used to kill a Chicago police commander was first bought legally at a gun shop in Wisconsin six years ago and went through many owners before landing in the hands of a four-time convicted felon.
Is it a wonder so many Americans insist that the country needs tougher gun laws?
These are just a few of the type of incidents that occur in a country where gun laws are so lax that, in some states, you can sell a gun to another person privately without a background check, people with a history of mental illness can buy a gun without question and teenagers are free to walk around with an assault rifle strapped on their back.
Gun lovers, of course, will take issue with some of these examples, particularly the one in Illinois where an assault weapon was used to thwart an attack. Dave Thomas, who identified himself as a firearms instructor, said that after he heard the scream, he opened his door and saw blood on the floor.
His handgun was on the bed next to the AR-15, but he chose the more powerful weapon, he said, because it was more intimidating. But, he also said, he was prepared to blow the suspect’s head off.
We don’t know what was going on in the apartment where three people were having a scuffle. Neither did Thomas when he burst in there with his high-powered rifle. All we know is that one man was later treated for minor knife injuries and the one who allegedly stabbed him was arrested.
Thomas should be commended for wanting to help someone in distress and also for being level-headed enough not to fire his weapon, possibly injuring more people.
But he was dead wrong when he said, “I think this is a perfect example of why … every single law-abiding citizen should have an AR-15.”
Appointing oneself the judge and jury in a domestic situation is very risky, and the outcome isn’t always so admirable. This situation could easily have escalated and ended in tragedy.
Rather than acting like a cop, what Thomas should have done was call 911.
The most bizarre event of the week, though, took place in a small town in rural Pennsylvania. Dozens of couples flocked to World Peace and Unification Sanctuary church to renew their wedding vows while carrying AR-15s.
It was so scary that students had to be moved from a nearby elementary school.
In light of the recent Florida massacre, it was disrespectful, at the very least, to hold a so-called “commitment ceremony” with people wearing crowns, drinking holy wine and clutching their “rods of iron,” as if they were a symbol from the Bible.
Clearly, it was a show of force against those who question the right to own high-powered weapons under the Second Amendment. But beyond how it looked on the surface, it was the thinly veiled message underneath that made many of us shudder.
It was as though they were looking in the faces of those kids in Florida and shouting, “We don’t give a damn about your pain and suffering. We’re not giving up our guns.”
The ceremony was part of a weeklong festival that, according to the Philadelphia Daily News, included a “President Trump Thank You Dinner.”
Now, let’s talk about the somersaults the fickle president performed all last week.
Most of us know that it’s ridiculous to trust anything Trump says, but some of us were hoping that the young Florida survivors who have been leading the charge for tougher gun laws managed to touch his heart.
During a televised meeting with Democratic and Republican lawmakers last week, Trump endorsed proposals to significantly expand background checks on gun sales and restrict the sale of some guns to people under the age of 21.
“We want to pass something great, and to me the something great has to be where we prevent it from happening again,” he said, referring to the Florida shooting.
We really got our hopes up when Trump accused lawmakers of being “petrified” by the National Rifle Association. “They have great power over you people. They have less power over me,” he said.
Turns out that was a lie. In less than 24 hours, the NRA had gotten to Trump and straightened him out. By Friday, Trump had backed away from supporting any substantive gun legislation.
But the award for the NRA coward of the week goes to the Georgia legislature. After Delta Air Lines took away discounted fares to NRA members, Republican lawmakers denied the carrier a promised $40 million tax break.
Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tweeted, “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”
That statement just confirmed what we already knew. The NRA owns the Republican Party.
And we can forget about any kind of reasonable gun control legislation anywhere in the nation as long as they are holding the gavel.
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for The Chicago Tribune. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.