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Column: It’s time for real discussion about guns in America


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INDIANAPOLIS — The shootings in Indiana’s own Elkhart gave Americans and Hoosiers a look at the National Rifle Association’s solution to the problem of gun violence in action.

A disturbed young man who had an apparent fascination with serial killers went in to a grocery store and killed a store employee and a customer. While the killer held his gun on the store manager, police quickly and bravely shot him dead.

The NRA and its flacks would say that outcome demonstrates that their solution works.

Good guys with guns came and shot a bad guy with a gun. The two people who died before the good guys could get there presumably are acceptable losses in the service of keeping the flow of guns in this country free and undiminished.

The family and friends of the victims might disagree.

And the dead, of course, no longer can speak for themselves.

Every time I — or anyone else — writes or talks about guns and puts the words “sensible,” “gun” and “laws” within 10 paragraphs of each other, the flacks for the gun lobby and their true-believing followers start yelling like 2-year-olds who have been deprived of sleep. They claim that anyone who is concerned about the tragic levels of gun violence in our country and who doesn’t believe exactly what the NRA and other gun groups tell them to believe is irrational, unreasonable and unthinking.

One of the loudest is state Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, who recently authored a bill that would allow students, faculty and community members to bring firearms to school and keep them locked up in their cars. (It’s interesting to note that, at a time, when most parents want to see guns kept as far away from school as possible, Lucas is going the other direction and trying to bring them closer).

Every time I write about guns, Lucas responds with a howl that I’m bullying the poor, beleaguered NRA, which only has a multimillion-dollar budget and a small army of lobbyists and message consultants with which to defend the organization’s interests.

In his last agitated response, Lucas said that I hadn’t proposed any solutions to the problem of gun violence.

While he wasn’t entirely accurate — in the past, I’ve given a qualified endorsement to the solution the NRA first endorsed (background checks) and then reneged on — Lucas had a glimmer of an insight. I deliberately haven’t proposed any solutions. In fact, I’ve acknowledged that gun laws might not solve the problem or might create problems worse than those we currently encounter.

Lucas and the gun lovers, though, never think to ask why I took this tack. That perhaps

is not surprising; they’re not big on asking questions that would force them to challenge their assumptions.

The reason is that I wanted the NRA true believers such as Lucas to demonstrate just how determined and unreasonable they will be. I wanted them to make my case for me.

And they have obliged.

Every time someone suggests that guns should be part of a national conversation about the epidemic of gun violence, they shriek like gut-shot hyenas.

The NRA and its fellow travelers propose solutions to the problem that include placing armed guards in schools and other public places, regulating violent media and drafting new stop-and-search policies.

All I’m saying is that if we’re going to put the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution on the table, then the Second Amendment and guns should be part of the discussion, too.

The tragic events in Elkhart gave us two more reasons to discuss ways that we can make our communities, our states and our country safer. It is time for people of good faith to gather and search for solutions. Even if we cannot find answers, we owe it to ourselves and those we care about to try.

The NRA and its foot soldiers in Congress and our Indiana General Assembly will do everything they can to stop us from having that discussion if it includes guns.

And the dead no longer can speak for themselves.

So it is up to the rest of us to do our duty and force the conversation.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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