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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Life on the edge

by Brenda Looper | May 3, 2023 at 3:30 a.m.
Brenda Looper

Friday night, about the time I was settling into bed at a friend's house after having enjoyed a night out at Argenta Community Theater's production of "Cinderella" (where another friend was playing the stepmother), five people, including a boy who'd only recently turned 9, were being killed in Cleveland, Texas, north of Houston.

Their crime? One asked a neighbor to stop shooting his AR-15-style rifle in his yard late at night when their baby was trying to sleep. The neighbor then reportedly entered the house and killed half the people there and, as of this writing, is still on the loose.

This was only the latest such event arising from "threats" any one of us might make without thinking of the consequences: ringing the wrong doorbell, pulling into the wrong driveway, getting into the wrong car, or going to the grocery store, church, school or the movies.

When I opened my social media accounts Sunday, I was met with post after post mourning the loss of lives and pointing out the obvious, that guns are the problem and more guns aren't the answer, which of course were met with cries of "you can't take away my gun" and "it's the hearts and minds of people, not guns."

Sigh. This isn't an either/or.

We've gotten into a cycle over the past few decades of having a series of mass shootings, followed by calls to tighten gun regulations and better enforce what we have, then having the gun lobby say it's too early to discuss it (it's never the right time, apparently). Usually a few days later, the gun lobby ramps up its "good guy with a gun" messaging, and gun and ammo sales go through the roof. Wait a little while, and repeat. Which is how we've gotten to the point where the number of guns outnumber people in the U.S. by about 100 million, concentrated in the hands of only about 45 percent of the population.

Poll after poll has shown that the majority of the American public, including NRA members, support the very measures that might have an effect: enhanced background checks, red-flag laws, required wait times, etc. But none of that will work, according to the way-too-loud minority. Because of that minority and the lobbies that support it, not much gets done, except that areas are "hardened," more guns are sold, and anxiety deepens.

The effect of all that is that we're in an unsustainable position. We can't harden everything because then we'd be living in a prison. You expect security guards at retail stores and banks, but do we really need them everywhere? There's really no place that's truly safe anymore, not even your own home. More guns are clearly not the answer, or we'd be the safest country in the world.

As so many have pointed out, it shouldn't be harder to vote, adopt a shelter pet, buy cold medicine, get a passport, or dozens of other things than it is to buy or otherwise access a gun (considering how many shooters got their guns legally, access is a problem). Members of that loud minority keep stocking up, showing up with guns everywhere they go ... for "protection," or at least the hope that they'll be the "good guy with the gun who stops the bad guy" even though that happens less frequently than the good guy without a gun stopping him, and both of those are far behind how mass shootings normally end: with the shooter fleeing, committing suicide, or being killed or taken into custody by police.

Do we really need to always be on edge, constantly looking for a threat that may not be there? That's hardly healthy physically or emotionally. Should kids be afraid to go to school because not only is it like a prison but it's still not protecting them, let alone doing what it's supposed to do: educate?

Here's what I propose: Calm down and evaluate the situation with a clear mind and facts, not opinion. We created the situation, and it's up to us to work to make it better.

Gather the data and expert analysis (meaning by people qualified to interpret full statistics, laws, etc., not your favorite opiner). See what's worked for others and what hasn't, and devise a plan based on that, not on red versus blue or gun enthusiasts versus gun-grabbers. Implement the necessary changes (personally, I'd go for background checks, red-flag laws, wait times, plus licensing and insurance requirements similar to that for cars to encourage responsible behavior), and preferably nationwide rather than state-by-state because the patchwork we currently have is part of the problem. If that doesn't have a positive effect after, say, a couple of years, adjust.

Just as importantly, we need to adjust our culture. Worshipping guns and making it easier to get them, plus generating fear of the other (basically anyone who isn't just like us), has led to more violence and anxiety. While gun lovers may mean to strike fear in the bad guys, they're actually doing that to friends, neighbors and strangers they may meet while strapped and loaded for bear. The bad guys don't care; the others (yes, even the friends and neighbors) don't know what that supposedly lawful gun owner's intentions are, so they're scared.

We can't go on like this. Sadly, I'd bet we will.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

Print Headline: Life on the edge


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