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The demonization of the gun

All sensible people hate violence, especially murder. Most despise the killing of innocents. Nobody in their right mind would condone random shootings or premeditated killings, especially of school children. I don't know anyone that's in favor of keeping our young people at risk in soft targets like schools. That said, we cannot ignore the fact that by doing nothing about hardening these targets we are aiding and abetting the next mass shooting.

Most teachers don't want to carry a loaded concealed weapon into their classrooms. Some may, but they are in the minority. It's hard enough to teach let alone protect students from crazed murderers. I think we can agree on that. If certain school districts want to institute that concealed carry practice, fine. All I ask is that the teachers who want to carry be thoroughly vetted and trained in the art of safety and self-defense with a weapon. I'd much rather see an armed security guard like an ex-soldier or retired policeman who's been tested in combat or on our streets take up this responsibility, but that's just me. All I know is that something must be done now to prevent more shootings.

This brings me to the central gun argument. There are those on the extreme Left that want all weapons banned and the Second Amendment erased from our Republic's memory. Another group wants stricter gun laws that ban certain weapons like the semi-automatic AR-15 that was used to kill seventeen innocent people in Parkland, Florida on February 14th. A third group wants to add limitations on those weapons that enable faster trigger-pulling like 'bump stocks' and reduce the size of magazines from 30 round-capacity, downwards.

On the Right, there are also three groups that have their own ideas of what to do. The first believes that any infringement of the rights of the individual to "keep and bear arms" guaranteed under the Second Amendment must be opposed. The second is more flexible but every bit aware of the 'no-guns anywhere' group that wants a total ban. This group is willing to agree to some restrictions (like the elimination of bump stocks, smaller magazines and raising the purchase age of certain weapons to 21) as long as these changes don't end up giving the government more power to eventually limit the sale of other guns to law-abiding people. The third group, comprised of decent thinking people like myself (and many members of the National Rifle Association and other groups and association that advocate for safe firearm use), are often confused and angry.

We're confused because we know the danger of doing nothing and we fear that doing the wrong thing will turn the gun argument into a national Hatfield-McCoy type feud between the extreme groups on both sides...and that could end the discussion forever. We're also angry that our beloved country has gone so far off the rails that we're being regarded as a lawless or uncaring society by the outside world AND by some on the inside world of our own media.

One of the principal abusers of the debate, in my opinion, is National Public Radio. NPR routinely hosts programs and interviews people that support the anti-gun side of the debate without offering equal time to the opposing view. Realizing now that they cannot refer to weapons like the AR-15 as 'assault weapons' they have taken to calling them 'assault-type weapons' and not bothering to tell their audience that the AR-15 is not an automatic weapon capable of firing as many rounds as possible as long as the trigger is engaged but is semi-automatic and requires a new trigger pull after each round is dispensed (just like the millions of semi-automatic handguns that are in circulation in the country). Neither do they correct their guests when they refer to these weapons as 'automatic or assault weapons.'

NPR is not alone. CNN is once again showing its true colors as a staunch anti-Second Amendment news outlet by packing their panels with people/pundits that share their views. This new crop of anti-gun rights 'experts' are reminiscent of Piers Morgan's assault some years ago on CNN after the Sandy Hook shootings when he and the network stood firm against Americans' ownership of weapons. Piers, now the host of "Good Morning Britain" recently had the spokesperson for the NRA, Ms. Antonia Okafor, on his program. After distorting the facts and being corrected by Ms. Okafor, he decided to go for her jugular and insulted her by saying, "America is in the West, you ridiculous woman! Sorry – you don’t even know where America is? It’s in the West. I’m done with you. You don’t even know where America is."

To be fair, Fox News stacks the deck a bit, too and gives more time to Second Amendment defenders, and that begs the question, "Can we even discuss the Second Amendment anymore without flying off the handle and going to our separate corners?" We cannot afford more rhetoric and inaction while our children are being slaughtered in their own classrooms. We need to address the core issue of the gun debate, and it's not the guns alone; it's the sick people that use them.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired U.S. diplomat and now political analyst and author. He has written nine books and over 800 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at:

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