Small World: Who is to blame?


Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

As I write, people in Colorado Springs are probably still trying to understand the shootings that took place on the day after Thanksgiving. The press reports that a 57-year-old man used an AK-47 assault rifle to kill three people, including one police officer, and wounded nine others in an attack on a Planned Parenthood center. This criminal firefight, which lasted over five hours, raises big questions in my mind.

It shouldn’t. There’s nothing new about a shoot-up in this country whether it be in a school, a movie theater, or now a clinic. Such outbursts also occur in other countries — one thinks of the Norwegian who used explosives and guns to slay dozens of his countrymen. But we — the home of the brave — have brought down a far larger total of unarmed Americans in repeated acts of domestic terrorism.

Why do we tolerate it? Our attitude is more than toleration, however: We facilitate these killings with ludicrously weak “gun control” laws. Why should any citizen without official law and order duties be allowed to own an AK-47 or similar weapons designed primarily for military combat? Sport, the gun “enthusiasts” might answer. But is it not equally satisfying to the urge to pull a trigger and hit a target if the weapon is stored under lock and key in a shooting range and checked out for a target-shooting session?

It’s one thing — dangerous but understandable perhaps — to keep rifles at home in a community where hunting is a traditional sport. It is quite another matter when ownership of weapons is permitted without clear and reasonable justification. Without registration and without safety devices, firearms are given less attention than motor vehicles. Those who — out of political cowardice, greed or ignorance — block sensible measures to reduce gun violence in our cities make themselves, in part, responsible for those crimes.

And what of the apparent target of the shooter’s rage — a Planned Parenthood center where abortions are sometimes performed and where other services for women’s health are seen to? Abhorrent to many, the right to have an abortion is constitutional in the judgment of the Supreme Court. And clinics are protected by federal law.

It has always seemed to me primarily a personal decision whether on not to have an abortion. A child who is not wanted by the mother or whom the mother cannot safely bear is a child who should not, in my opinion, be brought into the world. Unless, of course, those who would prevent abortion are prepared and willing to see to the rearing of that unwanted child into adulthood. Further, those who block an abortion also assume responsibility, including prison, should a woman come to grief because a needed abortion was denied.

Responsibility — that’s what it comes down to. We don’t live, thank goodness, in an autocratic society where decisions on important questions are answered for us. In our democracy, we are responsible to the community for the positions we advocate. Those politicians and activists who inveigh against Planned Parenthood (in error, I believe it has been established) take on some part of the blame when a weak-minded person goes off balance and acts out the punishment he believes he has a right and duty to inflict.

I am straining to hear some voices of remorse from those whose cries of rage nurtured or possibly brought on the crimes in Colorado Springs. Instead, there is silence where there were ranting accusations.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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