From Jim Killebrew, guest blogger: Response to Massacres of Innocent Children

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.

Respectfully yours,

Jim Killebrew

LaGrange, Georgia

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.

8 thoughts on “From Jim Killebrew, guest blogger: Response to Massacres of Innocent Children

    1. Paul,
      Have done so. Past submissions have yielded no response, so l’m not holding my breath.

  1. Joe,
    Thanks for giving this another airing.
    A couple of clarifications — I was a reliable Republican vote until 2000 when I actually entered the voting booth undecided. By 2004 I knew that the moderate wing of the GOP had passed on; and, sick to death of Rumsfeld and Cheney the Elder, I voted for Kerry — then Obama twice, Hillary ( that was excruciating for me but had to be done ), and Biden, a slam dunk. So I have been a “registered” Centrist for twenty years.
    No, I never received a response from any of the addressees, but then again I did not send it to them directly, only having it published in our local newspaper. I doubt that it ever got on the radar screens of our Senators but would think that Ferguson or one of his minions might have seen it.


  2. Thanks Joe. Wonderful testimony by your dedicated and very reasonable friend. Violence breeds violence and the NRA should consider what would happen if they become a target for violence.

  3. I think one of the most important options is generally missing from the discussions: set an age limit for ownership of guns: one must be 25 to own a gun. I do not know whether this would pass the “Constitutionality” test. I leave it to some lawyer to respond.

  4. Thank you, Dr. Killebrew, for this breath of sanity and practicality. It’s 4 years later and the body count has only risen. This was written in 2018 and the Tree of Life massacre in my hometown of Pittsburgh occurred later that year. These are weapons of war, not sport or self-defense. I weep for the victims and for our country’s dysfunction.

  5. Thank you, both Joe and Killer, for articulating the problems we face.
    I had procrastinated until today to read your blog and letter to the editor- knowing I would be seeing you tonight.
    I have not been moved to try and write another letter to the editor myself due to despondency. I blame it on being
    close to a depressive state, but may be better described by an articulate black jounalist on PBS as shame.
    I have considered emailing our conservative colleagues with something like ” this is your legacy- where is your shame?”
    But I know that goes nowhere. The blame game never succeeds.
    So I am looking for leaders of our country to do something, but not having much hope it will happen.

  6. Joe and Killer,
    I have read your blog and letter.
    I think I failed to post the comments I made earlier, so this is an abbreviated comment.
    Both were very well written. Is there any hope that we will see anything different from our leaders?
    I doubt it. But we need to push on and not give up, as Joe has written we have come a long way.

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