Guns don't kill people, people kill people. We've heard it a thousand times. Whether you believe it or not is up to you, but it's looking more and more like not only is there validity to that statement, it's probably downright true.
The Minnesota House on Wednesday voted on a bill to get guns away from domestic abusers (people).
Byron Smith (people) of Little Falls was convicted of pre-meditated murder and was sentenced to life in prison in the killing a pair of teenage intruders in his basement.
Also see: every mass shooting that has taken place in this country.
Guns have gotten a bad rap in the U.S., and it gets worse with every shooting, no matter the number of fatalities. I've written on this page before about my stance on guns, my fondness for the 2nd Amendment. I'm for guns but strongly believe there are places where they should never be allowed. Why? Because they scare the hell out of me if they're allowed in the wrong setting, or fall into the wrong hands. And that's what this is really all about, isn't it?
Yes, guns have proven to be the best way to kill people, sometimes in mass-like situations (and I'll go to my grave believing there's no place for assault rifles in our homes), but it takes a person to pull the trigger, or to reload, and that's what we should be focusing on. So why aren't we?
The bill the Minnesota House passed 111-15 this week would ban people convicted of certain abuse crimes or subject to restraining orders from possessing guns. It would require anyone convicted of child abuse or domestic abuse to give up their firearms for good. That's more like it. But it's only a start.
Bad things happen every day in this country, some worse than others. Public figures spout hurtful, racist comments. Major book stores close, signaling the end of a timeless tradition and a cold shift toward technology. Tornadoes kill, and destroy homes and buildings, and floods wash out roads. Rural mom-and-pop stores close their doors for good, dealing another blow to small downtowns. But nothing is worse than when one human shoots and kills another human(s), because that is something we should have more control over; that is something we should've figured out how to deal with and prevent decades ago - perhaps sometime between Charles Whitman in Texas, and Klebold and Harris in Colorado.
But we didn't. We have talked a good talk, but what really has been accomplished nationwide? The gun/mental illness debate seems to have faded since Sandy Hook, but that's a conversation that shouldn't just come and go.
Guns are out there, they're not going away, and to be honest, I don't want them to. What I want, what we need, is a tighter focus on the people who sell them, a tighter focus on the people who want them.
Gun owners have rights, and those rights need to be protected. The population of people who own guns - the hunters, the collectors among us - shouldn't be lumped in with the mentally ill who make the choice to take the lives of others, and then usually themselves, sometimes for no apparent reason. But we shouldn't focus on their motives as much as we should figure out how we can keep them away from guns.
Vigilance works, just ask the folks in Waseca.
Back to Byron Smith. He was within his rights to own guns. According to Minnesota law, he was within his rights to defend himself and his property when the two teens broke in on Thanksgiving Day 2012. But then he did more than take the law into his own hands, he played judge, jury and, most appalling, executioner by finishing the teens off, not unlike a hunter would to his trophy deer in the middle of a country grove somewhere.
This nation certainly has a strange obsession/fascination with guns, but we're certainly not alone. So let's focus on the people pulling the trigger. Did Smith lure those kids into his basement? Looks that way. And that would make him the poster child for the ever-so-familiar and controversial mantra that kicked this column off: Guns don't kill people, people kill people.
Is that even debatable anymore?