The Time Is Now

I am a hunter and a gun owner. I am not an NRA supporter—never have been and never will be.

That my hunting heritage has been hijacked by people who claim that I have a right—a need—to own something that spews bullets at rates that make mass murder as easy as something in a video game is absurd.

It’s time for serious conversation and some common sense.

All of the firearms that I own are lethal weapons, yes; but none of them have been designed with the sole intent of killing multitudes of people with a single trigger pull. That the opportunities—no, demands—for these conversations keep arising is testament to how far we have to go as a nation to move forward into some sort of sensible light where our children and those that we entrust with their care are not being murdered at the feet of ignorance, cruelty, and political gain.

Fear now reigns in places that all of us can agree are sacred: our schools. That children on this December afternoon are fearful of attending classes; that their teachers and administrators are likewise having to think more about murder and mayhem than about instruction and education is shameful. My own daughter is a second grade teacher, and today I am sure her mind is probably wandering—maybe she’s having to explain something she should not have to explain to her kids whose minds should be on Christmas parties and cupcakes in the final week of class. As a father, I am thinking of her safety.

It is time for serious conversation and some common sense.

The time for implementing bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazine sales (yes, I said it—bans) is long past due. Close the gun show loophole. Period. That will be a start. No, it will not prevent evil people from doing what they are intent to do. But it will begin an earnest effort for us as a nation to do better.

So, too, do we need to sit around the national table as citizens concerned about our future and have serious conversations about a video gaming culture where wanton killing is rewarded. We must also seriously consider the care and monitoring of those with mental health issues that might push them toward committing such horrific acts. Yes, I know how complex the issues are. Yes, I know that there will be those who argue that their Second Amendment rights must not be trampled upon. They will argue that they must be armed against the coming revolution and the hordes of criminals waiting to assault them. I know that the arguments will be complex, loud, and passionate.

I also know that, today, twenty-six people are no longer with us because we failed. Yes, we’ve failed to do better. Shame on us—all of us. As a hunter and gun owner, I want to talk. As a parent and citizen, I need to talk.

The time has come for common sense and serious conversation about the future—our children—our nation.

We must be willing to do this for the greater good; common sense and conversation is where it starts. Look at a child today. Maybe it will be your own or the child of someone you don’t even know—waiting on a school bus, playing on a playground, shopping with his or her parents for the holiday season in anticipation of all the good that is to come. Then think about that suddenly being taken away and you will have all the reason you need to sit and think and talk.

Yes, the time is long past for serious conversation and common sense. It is time to act. Now.

J. Drew Lanham is a native of Edgefield, South Carolina and a Distinguished Alumni Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University. His essay “Hope and Feathers” appeared in the January/February 2011 issue of Orion; his first book, The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature, will be published in late 2013 by Milkweed Editions.


  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so clearly at such a painful time.

  2. What concerns me is not stricter gun laws. Even as the son of a NRA lifer, I can still live with tighter gun laws. What concerns me is that we simplify complexity and think that better laws will result in better behavior. We still need to address what in our society contributed to Lanza’s insanity and deal with that complexity. We pass laws and walk away thinking we’ve cured a problem.

  3. Well said. A good first start. It will definitely start to separate guns with a reason from those designed for massive human destruction.

    We also need to address the way we treat our mentally ill. To wait until they commit a crime, then imprison them is not very proactive.

  4. Good luck with addressing “what in our society contributed to Lanza’s insanity.” Causation of mental illness is extremely difficult to establish. Also, with an overly-protective and heavily-armed mother keeping this impaired kid at home like a pit bull in a crate with a broken lock, you would need an intrusive nanny state to intervene, which is way beyond what anyone would tolerate. How about a simpler solution: a heavy criminal and civil add-on penalty for the owner’s failing to secure assault weapons when such weapons are used for criminal activity?

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