Dr. Killebrew is a retired orthopedic surgeon and close friend from high school in Nashville and a fraternity brother at Davidson College. He has joined me on something like a dozen sailing adventures in the Caribbean. He lives in LaGrange, Georgia, in the heart of the Deep South. He was a lifelong, moderate Republican prior to the Age of Trump when he became an Independent. Here is his petition to his elected officials in Georgia:
An open letter to Senators Johnny Isakson, David Perdue and Congressman Drew Ferguson
Once again a mass killing has put gun control at the top of our nation’s political agenda. Once again there is a national outpouring of grief and sorrow over the insane shooting of innocents. Once again the focal point of debate is gun control and the NRA. Once again, I suspect, this momentary tidal wave of emotion will recede and calmer waters will return, until, with the same degree of certainty as the ebb and flood of the tide itself, the next wave occurs. You can bet on it. It’s not a question of if, only when and where. As someone has said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If we continue the skillful neglect of this issue, then it is we who are insane.
I am a gun owner who does not belong to the NRA, so I come to this issue not as an extremist but as an “alt centrist,” if you will. I don’t want to have guns confiscated. I do want the mass killings to stop.
I think it would be good for us as a nation to keep our eye on the ball here, and the “ball” is mass shootings, which is a different problem from guns used in, say, armed robberies, or inner city gang homicides, or domestic shootings, or self-inflicted shootings, either intentional or accidental. The gun issue is a multifactorial one which will not yield to one sweeping piece of legislation. Rather, it will require different approaches tailored to each of the differing problems. That said, surely we can all agree that measures should be taken to bring mass shootings to a halt. The perpetrators of these atrocious acts would seem to be, at least temporarily, mentally unbalanced, and, unquestionably, armed to the teeth.
I fail to understand why any civilian needs to possess weapons with the continuous firepower of those used in the recent mass shootings. Someone is going to have to explain to me why any law abiding citizen needs to own multiple clips and multiple magazines, each holding 15 or 20 or 30 or 50 or more rounds. To what end? Certainly not hunting. Certainly not target practice or competition. Certainly not to control vermin or armadillos. The only reasons I can think of involve doing bad things.
So, without limiting gun ownership at all, why not try to limit their continuous firepower? Place controls on the number of clips and magazines one can own, and on their capacity. We already limit shotguns to three shells plus a plug. We already proscribe ownership of automatic weapons. No less a personage than the late Supreme Court Justice John Scalia voiced his opinion that rights, including those granted under the Second Amendment are not without limits. We can’t own machine guns. We can’t own bazookas. We can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. This ought to be a slam dunk, though I acknowledge that in the realm of legislation there is no such thing. What to do about oversized magazines already in circulation would have to be addressed. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.
As for the other part of the problem, the mental derangement of the perpetrators themselves, we should improve background checks. I fail to understand why such checks are deemed unnecessary at gun shows. Beyond that, I know there are difficulties. Mental derangement can first appear long after the purchase of a weapon; so addressing that issue gets us into murky territory, certainly more contentious than putting limits on the continuous firepower afforded by oversized magazines. All that said, steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who use them to do bad things must be enhanced.
Gun control advocates may say that what I propose here doesn’t go nearly far enough. To them I would say that overreach risks getting nothing. The gun lobby may say that these proposals go too far. To them I would say that the continued stonewalling of any and all efforts to remedy the current situation risks waking up one day and finding that a ground swell of revulsion has led to the loss of all gun freedoms. The more extreme a pendulum’s starting point, the greater its arc in the opposite direction.
The first responsibility of government is the protection of the public. We, the public here in Georgia and Troup County, look to you, our elected leaders, to stand up and step forward to address this recurring public menace and national nightmare. Consider for moment all the collective energy and national treasure we expend countering threats posed by Russia, China, North Korea and ISIS, not one of which has thus far shot dead a single American school child. So, let’s all get our eyes on the ball. Act now to curtail and end the insanity of mass shootings.
Note that this letter was written in 2018 in response to the killings that year in the Parkland, not the Uvalde Massacre. I do not believe he ever received a response. There were fewer than 300 million guns in the U.S. at the time. Today there are over 400 million.