FLINT - We're told over and over that guns don't kill people, people kill people. That's indisputably true.
But it's also true that people with lots of guns that shoot lots of bullets really, really fast kill lots of people if they decide to, which they do with alarming frequency these days.
And so I ask: Am I the only one who's sick of the gun culture in this country enabling violence on the scale of the Aurora, Colo., massacre?
If you answered no - if you think maybe, just maybe, assault weapons like the one used in the attack shouldn't be sold to just about anyone who wants one - then here's another question for you: Then why don't you say something?
Since the shooting there have been tears aplenty for the victims, as you might expect, but little to no outrage about guns. Mostly, the national reaction seems to be a shrug and a "Well, it's awful, but what are you going to do?"
Well, we could talk. That would be a good start. You'd think talking about our addiction to guns would be only natural after what happened. My god, 12 people were gunned down while watching a movie. Fifty eight more were wounded. Thousands of lives were changed in an instant. Indirectly, the entire nation was debased - again - by a nut with a gun he shouldn't have had.
If that's not enough to at least talk about whether we've drawn the line on guns in the right place, then what will it take - 50 deaths at a time, 100, 200?
Those numbers were possible, by the way. The Washington Post is now reporting that the shooter's semiautomatic assault rifle - a civilian version of the military's M-16 - jammed during the assault, probably because of the 100-round drum magazine he had attached to it. It was the only good thing to happen that night. That particular gun fires 50-60 rounds a minute - a minute!
Hundreds could have died.
I'm a simple guy, I guess. When someone treats a movie theater like a shooting gallery and his biggest, baddest weapon is a gun with that kind of killing power, it occurs to me that maybe our priorities are misplaced.
Yes, gun ownership is a right. But that gun? Why? Because some like to use it on a range and because others think it's the sort of thing they might need to defend themselves against the government if it ever turns oppressive? For that we trade our collective sense of security when we visit theaters, schools, stadiums? That seems like a lousy deal.
But that's just me. I've never bought the right's gun paranoia that banning one type of weapon will necessarily lead to a ban on all of them.
There's no basis in history or fact for that argument. Did speed limits lead to the banning of cars? Have handguns been banned because you can't own a TOW missile?
I don't expect you to agree. In fact, given the tepid outcry following the shooting, you probably don't. But even so, this is America, the greatest, freest, most caring nation on earth. We should at least have a national dialogue about guns, don't you think?
Don't we owe at least that to the victims?
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.