Happiness: Not a warm gun in Ohio

The latest tragedy in an Ohio high school reveals how urgently the US needs tighter gun-control laws.

Chardon Ohio Mourns Deadly School Shooting
TJ Lane, the shooter at Chardon High School in Ohio, killed three students [GALLO/GETTY]

Columbus, OH – It happened again recently. We don’t know all the details, but what we do know is this. A young man named TJ Lane walked into high school – here in my home state of Ohio – approached a table full of kids and started shooting.

By the time the smoke cleared, three kids were dead. Three tragedies of unfulfilled dreams, unrealised potential and abrogated constitutional rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, their “general welfare” not protected by the state. More accurately, sacrificed on the altar of the arm’s industry’s puffery and profit-driven deceit.

Like with any tragedy such as this, there were many handmaidens. Certainly, chief among them was the violence this young man bore witness to regularly, in a household reportedly filled with it. His parents, both charged with domestic abuse and other violent behaviour in the past, seemingly helped nurture a disturbed and dangerous kid.

But it’s also been reported that the killer’s grandfather – from whom Lane accessed the gun used – had so many weapons lying around that he couldn’t figure out a gun was missing until afterwards. Read that sentence again.

Teaching a child that violence solves everything and giving him access to an arsenal. That should make his family criminally liable – although, current Ohio law will not allow that to happen.

Perhaps, if Ohio state lawmakers hadn’t been so busy letting foetuses testify or extending concealed-carry permits to drinking establishments (shots and shooting! Two pastimes that go hand-in-hand like crack cocaine and boating!), they could’ve found some time to work on that one.

Because, make no mistake, it’s a love affair with guns by an obsessive and loud minority and the resulting lax regulation, which are key reasons these things just don’t happen on a regular basis in any other Western country. While TJ Lane had easy pickings among a bevy of unaccounted-for weapons, the state of Virginia – under its culturally-Ragtime-Era governor – was removing a law that limited buyers to one handgun purchase per month.

Which totally makes sense – how can you hunt moose or protect your house with only 12 guns per year? Pennsylvania legislators, not wanting to be outdone, were not only busy refusing to require lost or stolen guns be reported, but were working on legislation to make cities and localities that pass these ordinances civilly liable to endless lawsuits (but remember, they support “tort reform!”).

Along those lines, I have a question I’d like to proffer to the arms-dealer lobby, also known as The National Rifle Association (NRA). Not their members, who strongly support common-sense gun control measures, unless you want to disbelieve numerous polls (part of a Bilderberg conspiracy of yet-unknown proportions), including one by died-in-the-wool Republican Frank Luntz. But their leadership, who Lawrence O’Donnell Jr rightly called “the merchants of death”.

At what point does this senseless violence (not to mention man-on-gun love) become simply unacceptable? How do we convince Starbucks that when I walk in for my grande decaf vanilla skim latte, seeing sugar, splenda and a Bushmaster on the table’s not my cup of tea, and actually motivates me to go elsewhere and buy my coffee?

When do we look at the recent Today Show gun sting and say it’s probably a bad idea to allow anyone – and by that I mean, you, me or the Unabomber – to buy weaponry that can pierce armour or take down a helicopter without a background check? How do we let politicians know the NRA’s not the lethal lion of lore, but a paper tiger?

I came prepared with some answers. Regarding Starbucks, and others who think open carry of firearms’ a swell idea, perhaps a boycott under way by Elliot Fineman’s National Gun Victims Action Council will open their eyes to the views of the silent majority.

Regarding our politicians and the need for first-world gun regulations like background checks – an issue on which I have worked the past few years – I give you a recent study by scholar Paul Waldman. Waldman’s work took apart long-held myths, like that the NRA’s money and endorsement impacts elections (the NRA endorses all-but-certain winners and spreads its money too thin for any measurable impact in a given race) and that they were responsible for the national Republican victories in 1994 and 2000 (hint: they weren’t).

Sadly, we’re not there yet. There will be more victims like those in Chardon. But a combination of activism by survivors, reports like Waldman’s and demographics will not be kind to the gun industry in the coming years. There’s real hope that soon politicians, and businesses such as Starbucks, will come across enough honest information and outrage to conclude what a majority of Americans already know.

Happiness is not a warm gun.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain.

Follow him on Twitter: @Cliffschecter