EDITORIAL: We are complicit in murder when we let the NRA call the shots

SHARE EDITORIAL: We are complicit in murder when we let the NRA call the shots
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People are brought out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school on Wednesday. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz, 19, bought his gun legally.

Imagine that. We live in a country where a young man can walk into a store or go online and buy an AR-15, a gun capable of killing people as fast as the trigger can be pulled, should he have murder on his mind.

EDITORIAL

Shomari Legghette, on the other hand, came by his gun illegally. That’s a safe assumption. Even in the United States, a convicted armed robber can’t buy a gun legally. Legghette’s gun was fitted with an extended magazine that could hold 30 bullets.

Cruz and Legghette, that is to say, were decked out to kill.

On Wednesday in Parkland, Florida, Cruz allegedly killed 17 people in and around a high school. On Tuesday in Chicago, Legghette allegedly killed a police officer, Cmdr. Paul Bauer.

The two shootings were separated by 1,243 miles, but the common denominator goes like this:

There is no way in hell either man should have had access to such guns. Our nation’s gun laws are stupid, and we are all complicit in murder — every American — if we allow the stupidity to go on.

Defenders of all guns all the time will make different arguments. They will ask why Legghette, who had a long criminal record, was walking the streets. Good question. They will ask why counselors and school administrators didn’t flag Cruz for the disturbed young man he was. Good question.

But other developed nations have criminals. Other countries have their share of dangerous young men.

What they don’t have is our guns. Or our nation’s murder rate.

The number of guns held in civilian hands in the United States is about 310 million, according to the National Institute of Justice. That’s about half of all the civilian-owned guns in the world.

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns — legally obtained or not — than people in other developed countries, studies show. In Germany, for example, the chances of being killed by a gun are about the same as being killed in the United States by a falling object.

About a third of all mass shootings in the world have occurred in the United States. If you define a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot — though not necessarily killed — the number of mass shootings in the last five years has topped 1,606, with at least 1,829 people killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Why then is it so hard to ban the sale of guns such as the AR-15, the weapon of choice of mass murderers? Every honest national poll shows that Americans would be fine with that. An AR-15 is designed only to kill people, as most of us know.

It is not designed to ward off home burglars or hunt deer.

Why then is it so hard to ban the easy sale of weapons at gun shows and garage sales?

Why then can’t Congress pass a bill that would require gun shops to lock up their inventory at the close of every business day? Burglars steal some $164 million worth of guns each year from gun shops, and the guns enter the illegal gun market. They are moved across state lines — Northwest Indiana to Chicago is a hot route — and are used to commit crimes.

Why then is it so hard in Illinois to crack down on the small handful of gun shops that are known sources of many of the guns that turn up at Chicago crime scenes?

Why then can’t the state Legislature create a state license for gun shops?

None of this is radical. None of this violates the Second Amendment’s fundamental protection of gun rights. It is nothing more than a sane balancing of interests in today’s real world, where guns are not muskets but killing machines.

We blame the gun lobby. The National Rifle Association pulls in millions of dollars from gun and ammunition manufacturers and distributors, and it showers that money on legislators in Washington and in state capitals, including Springfield. If a legislator offends the NRA, it showers even more of that money on the legislator’s opponent in the next election.

Politicians are not brave. They slither along the path of least resistance.

And we — all the reasonable American people who take a middle position in this debate, who understand that guns are deeply embedded in our culture but need not destroy us — allow the gun lobby to call the shots. Quite literally.

Cmdr. Paul Bauer is dead. Seventeen people are dead in Florida.

We have ourselves to blame.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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