I've found it nearly impossible to avoid thinking about gun control as the stories kept coming over the past few weeks: 12 people killed and 58 wounded in Aurora, Colorado; six killed, three wounded at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; a security guard shot and wounded at a Family Research Council headquarters in Washington DC....
And then Friday morning, a few short blocks from the New York City hotel in which we were staying, a gunman shot and killed a former co-worker and, as he calmly walked away, police shot and killed him and wounded nine bystanders.
Friday's shooting, outside the Empire State Building during a pedestrian-heavy morning rush hour, was simply the most spectacular of that city's recent shootings. Tucked inside the Times the morning of the shooting was a report that the previous day, a street vendor had shot two other vendors near Yankee Stadium. Yet another case of a personal dispute, some witnesses said. The two victims were reported to be in stable condition with stomach wounds, having survived thanks to the bad marksmanship of the shooter, presumably. Certainly no thanks to the weapon.
And near that story, on the same page: a report of the death of a livery-cab passenger shot during a failed robbery attempt a week earlier.
"Once again, there's an awful lot of guns out there," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been urging stricter gun-control laws, said after Friday's shooting. An awful lot of guns out there in New York City and around the country, including in Rochester, where shootings can seem like a daily occurrence.
Calls for stricter gun control will continue to be flicked away by politicians too timid to go up against the NRA, gun manufacturers, and others. So odds are, Governor Andrew Cuomo won't get far with the push he says he'll make next year.
Some New York legislators want to tighten the state's gun-control laws, and Cuomo says it'll be a priority for him. The reaction from gun manufacturers in New York State? Remington officials in Ilion threaten to move to "a more sympathetic state," the Times reported on Friday.
The loudest voices against gun control, of course, are those of gun owners and the NRA. Their concern: that any form of gun control leads to more control, and then more, and ultimately to a ban on gun ownership of all kinds.
So let me go ahead and suggest the unmentionable:
Why don't we ban private ownership of guns?
Can we not create jobs in towns like Ilion, New York, without basing them on instruments of death?
Oh, but if guns were banned, bad people with bad intentions would have guns and law-abiding citizens wouldn't. Of course, for a little while. That's the situation now. But ban guns – shut down the gun shows and the gun shops, shut down the sales of guns to people not involved in police work or the military, and you'll reduce the availability of guns, to law-abiding and non-law-abiding citizens alike.
There are, of course, gun-control opponents who warn that Americans must arm ourselves so we can resist a tyrannical government. But surely, even in this day of Tea Party ascendancy, those people are a small minority. The majority, surely, fall into two groups: people who believe they need guns for protection against intruders and people who want to own guns for pleasure: hunting, target shooting.
But if there were no guns, intruders wouldn't have them. And yes, outlawing guns would mean that you couldn't hunt with guns. People who find pleasure in perfecting their aim could no longer go to shooting ranges. But are those pleasures worth the cost of the repeated carnage – on streets, in homes, in offices, by mentally stable and mentally ill alike?
Isn't it time to stop pretending that it is?
Can't we have a rational discussion about this? Don't we owe that much to the victims in Aurora and Manhattan, Oak Creek and Washington and Rochester?