Stephen Kent

Could this be a tipping point for gun control? No. Why should it be? Why should it break the well-established cycle of shock, grief, outrage, complacency that has followed every other mass shooting in the United States?

* Thirteen killed, more than two dozen wounded in the mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, didn’t do it.

* Six killed and 13 wounded, including a member of Congress, in Tucson, Ariz., didn’t do it.

* Twelve killed, 58 wounded in a Colorado movie theater didn’t do it.

* Six killed at a religious temple in Wisconsin didn’t do it.

What will it take? Is the murder of 20 young children and six adults in Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School sufficient? Or must there be greater numbers, more shocking locations?

“Tipping point” is a term used by Malcolm Gladwell to describe how a trend gains wide scale popularity. This tipping, according to Gladwell, depends on the type of people who champion the idea, compelling people to pay close and sustained attention to it. It depends, too, on subtle shifts in the environment.

Since there are so many sociopaths but no way to prevent violent actions, they must be denied the instruments if that is the only way of preventing further massacres.

Presidents, governors and members of Congress issue predictable pandering, useless statements of outrage and unacceptability when what is needed is leadership and courage.

President Barack Obama said, “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Suppose that, accompanied by Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, he appeared and said:

“This is the fourth time I have addressed this nation in the wake of a gun massacre. I am not going to take it anymore.

“Monday I will send Congress a formal request to begin the process to repeal and replace the Second Amendment to the Constitution. It will permit citizens to be licensed to own firearms for hunting and sport but ban all forms of automatic weapons.

“The House and Senate leaders, here with me, will ensure no other legislation will be considered until this passes through Congress and is sent to the states for ratification.”

That would be leadership.

The argument of the gun lobby, that firearm ownership is a right as well as necessary for self-defense, has blocked substantial change. The gun lobby’s source of power is in the vast sums of money it spends to ensure a pliant Congress.

Congress should act with the full knowledge and acceptance that doing the right thing could mean the end of a political career.

That would be courage.

Since there are so many sociopaths and mentally ill persons but no way to identify them and prevent violent actions, they must be denied the instruments if that is the only feasible way of preventing further massacres.

The Second Amendment was created by people; it can be revised to reflect the change from muzzle loaders to automatic weapons. The sheer magnitude of what it would take to accomplish this boggles the mind.

Yet, slavery in this country once was accepted and defended as an economic necessity. Today, it is unthinkable.

The greatest generation of World War II had the unity of people in a common cause for justice. Everyone, from the battlefields to the backyards, in some way contributed at the expense of their well-being. Gun owners may have to accept more restriction for the greater good.

Future generations will look back with wonder and amazement, as we do about slavery, that unrestricted firearms access was prevalent in the country. If the outrage is real this time to make it the tipping point, then a tsunami of popular feeling should bring immediate action.

Otherwise, don’t complain when you risk your children’s lives by sending them to school, or when you risk your safety by going to work, movie theaters or malls.


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. He can be contacted at