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I’ve Supported the Second Amendment My Whole Life. It’s Time for Reasonable Gun Control

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I grew up around rifles, shotguns and handguns. My family lived on the outskirts of a small Mississippi town near a hospital. Once in a while, an inmate receiving medical treatment there would escape, causing some excitement among those listening to the police scanner until the inmate was caught. As a child, an escapee knocked on our door one night, asking to use the telephone. My aunt declined to show hospitality. The inmate bolted, probably into the woods. Soon enough, the police knocked on our door, too, as they tracked the escapee. (They caught him.) Though my aunt never touched a gun that evening, she certainly had ready access to plenty of options, and the incident impressed upon me why it could be helpful to have one in the house.

But the Parkland shooting in Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was the culmination of several troubling years of legal guns winding up in the wrong hands, and I am now convinced that those of us who have previously been Second Amendment absolutists — myself included — should support common-sense gun control. The American government is so broken it is literally killing people, as well-funded bureaucracies fail to keep guns out of the hands of men and women who are not fit for the awesome responsibility.

In the five years since a gunman slaughtered 20 first-graders in Newtown, Conn., at least 438 American men, women and children have been shot in school shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Seventeen of them were killed in the second mass school shooting of this year, by a 19-year-old with a legally obtained AR-15 rifle.

The ease and accessibility with which the murderer in Parkland obtained his rifle and committed a massacre at a high school reminded me of a memory that was once funny but is now troubling. A decade ago, while I was in Afghanistan working at the NATO/ISAF headquarters, I bragged to my late father about shooting an AK-47, and he decided he wanted to buy one himself. One evening at around midnight, the phone rang and my mother groggily answered. The man on the line apologized for the late hour but told her he was on parole, and it was the only time he could call without getting caught by his mother. He had seen my father’s want ad for an AK-47 and had one to unload. My mother told him to never call our home again.

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