Editor's notes

In the wake of Sandy Hook, we must change our definition of "weapon of mass destruction"

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tredmond@sfbg.com

EDITORS NOTES The president promised "meaningful action," but did not mention guns once in his response to the unthinkable killing spree in Newtown, Connecticut. The gun nut lobby argued that if the teachers at the school had been armed, one of them might have shot the killer — suggesting that we ought to devolve into the worst parodies of the Old West (where, in truth, many towns, like Dodge City, banned handguns altogether).

And there was the usual hand wringing by observers on all sides about how hard it is to get gun-control laws through Congress, how the Second Amendment has been interpreted, how gun-registration laws didn't prevent Adam Lanza from killing his mother and stealing her (legally purchased and registered) .233 Bushmaster rifle.

It's infuriating that this keep happening, and nobody seems to be able to gather the political courage to tell the truth: We are allowing tens of thousands of Americans (including some who are deeply disturbed and dangerous) to own weapons of mass destruction.

Seriously: We spent a trillion dollars and the lives of 4,488 US soldiers to wipe out suspected WMDs in Iraq. We talk over and over about how Iran must not be allowed to obtain a WMD; nuclear nonproliferation has always been a centerpiece of our foreign policy.

And nobody argues that nuclear bombs don't kill people, or that the crazy dictator with a war wish will find other ways to inflict carnage.

There's a difference. A crazy guy with a machete could have done some serious damage in the Sandy Hook elementary school — but he wouldn't have killed 20 children and six adults. In fact, a madman with a pistol would have killed some people, but not as many — and some of those shot might have lived.

In this case, a rifle that belongs on a battlefield of war, with huge ammo cartridges, allowed Lanza to put multiple bullets into the tiny bodies of every one of his victims. Nobody had a chance.

You have to appreciate West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who is a devoted hunter and lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, who made the point nicely:

"I don't know anybody that needs those multiple clips as far as ammunition in a gun. The most I've ever used in my rifle is three shells. Usually you get one shot, and every seldom ever two."

Exactly. There is no need for anyone who wants a gun for self-defense, for sport, or for hunting to carry 30 rounds at a time. And if you think that your assault weapon is going to protect you when the black helicopters of the United Nations Storm Troopers arrive to force us into a World Government, you're seriously delusional.

No: People buy these guns because they think it's cool to have massive firepower. It's fun shooting off a whole lot of rounds at a target. It's also cool to have a car that goes 240 miles an hour and runs with open heads, and it's fun to drive it drunk on city streets at high speeds. But we have decided as a society that we don't think the potentially lethal impacts on others make it worth allowing those sorts of fun.

I get it — we're not going to become Canada (too bad) or Western Europe. Americans like guns. Fine. We're not going to eliminate standing armies all over the world, either. But we can stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Or at least we could try.