My nephew Rory Oliver was sworn in this morning as a new police officer for the City of Chicago. So the usual topics are put aside, so I can say “congratulations,” and offer my respect and admiration.
Marine veteran, number one for fitness in his academy class, ridiculously fit – he’s worked for this goal with focus and intensity, both physical and mental. Loving father of a handsome son and a daughter on the way this winter -- devoted husband with the caring support of his marvelous wife -- parents and brothers and grand-parents and in-laws pulling for him – he exemplifies all we can hope from the first responders of whom society asks so much.
So how will we respond, to Rory and his class of fellow rookies -- ready to answer the call, and to put on the line for us all that they love and value?
Surely it’s time in our national discourse to act on these core truths:
- That there is no place in civilian life for weapons designed only for warfare, for armor-piercing bullets or for high-capacity magazines.
- That if we can license and regulate and restrict access to the rights to drive a car or give a haircut, we can design reasonable safeguards around the constitutional right to bear arms.
- That while access to mental health care should be part of our commitment to care for those in our midst least able to care for themselves, there is no discernible difference between the deeply disturbed in America and those in other countries where the ability to wreak homicidal violence is impeded by effective limits on gun access.
- That the same liability system that puts responsibility on the sellers and distributors of other dangerous means of harm and injury can work effectively to constrain the supply chain of gun-related death and destruction.
As a matter of priority we must start there, because suicidal “outliers” will always slip through any cracks, undetected and unpredictable – no system for deterrence or counsel will stop those crazed enough to act. But it makes the wrong point, looking at the foreign killer with a knife, to say, “See, it happens there too.” The right question is, “What do we learn, of how many were spared, because he could not get a gun?”
Or, for that matter, the deadly feedstock of ammunition. For a gun without bullets is no more than household décor, unusable to inflict deadly harm on spouse or sibling or self. As a weapon, an unloaded firearm is only a club, and an ineffective one at that. So cutting off the means to damage, especially large clips and belts, must be one of the many fruitful ways to start rendering more safe our schools and theaters and homes and public places.
I was raised in rural America, where gun ownership and the safe, respectful use of firearms was part of every household, including mine. Skill with a gun determined whether there was meat on the table, and bragging rights accrued to skill on the target range. I need no persuasion on the diverse scope of our national culture.
But the accommodation to hunting and sport and the rights contemplated by our nation’s fathers should not extend to the failure to assure the freedom from wanton slaughter of our first-graders.
So we salute you, Rory Oliver. We are proud of your calling and your ambition to serve. We will rely on your strength and your dedication. We will pray daily for your safety and that of your brethren in uniform. And we are dedicated to help you, in the quest to free our land from its course of senseless mayhem and to make it instead a place of peace and safety for all.
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