Stephen Kent

A reader chastised me for an error in fact in a recent column for “spreading lies and other misinformation that will mislead readers.”

The column in question called for a reversal of the gun culture in America following the shootings at Los Angeles International Airport. I incorrectly said the person who killed a Transportation Security Administration agent and wounded others did so with an automatic rifle. It was in fact a semi-automatic rifle.

That is a distinction without a difference.

A semi-automatic has a magazine containing several rounds, each round fired with a squeeze of the trigger. After each round is fired, another is automatically loaded into the chamber. An automatic fires multiple rounds by holding in the trigger. A semi-automatic, such as an AR-15, can fire 45 rounds a minute; an automatic is capable of firing 800 rounds a minute.

Yes, it was a semi-automatic, not an automatic weapon that killed at the Los Angeles airport. That distinction may be lost on the families and survivors.

The focus should be not on the type of firearm used in mass killings, but on the culture in this country that takes an absolutist position about access to and possession of firearms that exceed requirements for recreational and sporting use.

An argument against gun control based solely on misidentification of one rifle in one case is built on a weak foundation.

Still, I would like to understand the reasons for favoring unlimited firearms. I try to understand. I just don’t get it. This letter helps.

“It is our right as citizens to own guns to protect ourselves from a government that would infringe upon our freedoms,” the reader wrote.

What about voting as a method?

“If our gun culture is ever reversed … how long do you think it will be before more of our rights as citizens and humans will be taken from us? How long will it be before women are forced to have abortions in this country?” he asks.

I’ve tried to understand this line of thought. I’ve concluded that those holding it perceive a society that is held together, not by human respect or by community, but by firearms. A well-armed, gun-bearing population is the only way to protect rights.

I find this sad as well as frightening.

Background checks, let alone registration, are rejected by gun owners even when they agree that states can require drivers to demonstrate proficiency to obtain a license in order to be on the highway and even purchase insurance to operate their automobile on public roads.

I don’t understand why Second Amendment absolutists can’t admit to reasonable limits as do editors and publishers in regard to First Amendment, which does not permit libel or slander.

Few rights are absolute. The right to life certainly is.

As my reader concludes, “violent people will always find a way to do violence.”

I agree. That’s why society must reduce the means by which they can do violence whether done by abortion or firearms.


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. Contact him at: