On Dec. 11, we here in Clackamas County and the Portland area learned in the most gut-wrenching way possible, that even our bland little suburb outside of a safe, artsy city is not as “safe” as we want it be.

On Dec. 14, 20 little children and six brave women were gunned down in a place they should have been safe. For 10 minutes, hell came to life in Connecticut.

And our response? On Dec. 15 gun sales were at record highs across the United States of America. Sure, we wrote letters and said prayers and held candles at vigils in churches. But on that first day, the only concrete action we took was to bog down the CBI with background check requests and to hand over our cash in gun stores from sea to shining sea.

My facebook feed is buzzing and Twitter is on fire. Scrolling down I see photo after photo. My cousins, posing with an array of their handguns at a dining room table, and a good friend from high school, awkwardly cradling an assault rifle in one hand and taking a photo with the help of the bathroom mirror with the other, are just two images that stand out. The tweets go on and on.

“Proud of my conceal permit.”

“Never think before you fire.”

“My little girl is getting a .45 for Christmas.”

The most popular gun of the day? The AR15, a lightweight magazine fed semiautomatic rifle or the civilian equivalent of the military M16. While most ammunition magazines for the AR15 contain only 30 or 40 rounds, you can purchase magazines containing as many as 100 rounds. Thousands of these guns were sold over the week after a shooter at Clackamas Town Center used one. Lawmakers are arguing that we should arm teachers, and companies have come out with armored plates that slide into school backpacks.

We’re solving the problem of random public shootings the good old fashioned American way. We’re making sure that more people have more access to more dangerous guns than ever before. The NRA has been tightlipped about the massacres and every other developed nation in the world is watching the US, waiting to see our response. Will we join the developed world in eschewing semiautomatic weapons? Or will we keep going the good old fashioned American Way; guns, guns and more guns?

Questioning the extent of the Second Amendment has traditionally been a form of political suicide. Mentioning, as a lawmaker, that you are in support of tighter controls on guns and/or ammunition has always been a quick way out of American Public Office. Now, in the aftermath of two brazen attacks—and with over 30 American’s dead barely two weeks before Christmas, that may be about to change.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund announced on Dec. 18 that the firm would review their investments and was strongly considering purging the stocks it owned in arms manufacturing firms. Dick’s Sporting Goods stores across the nation temporarily restricted sales on certain types of semi-automatic guns and President Obama indicated that his administration is going to take a long hard look at gun control in the coming weeks and months.

For the first time in modern history American’s seem willing to open a dialogue, but even with companies divesting from arms manufacturers and people facing the stark truth that we now live in a world where people are killed en masse, it’s going to be an uphill battle. Almost half of the newly elected House Representatives received campaign funding from the NRA in the last election cycle. According to the Small Arms Survey, a UN research project based in Geneva, of the 28 countries surveyed, only two consider gun ownership a “basic right.” The United States of America, and Yemen.

With over 88 guns per 100 citizens (according to the same survey) the US is by far the most armed nation in the world. Dr. Garen Wintemute, a firearms expert, estimates that with 4.5 percent of the world’s people live in the United States, the U.S. accounts for nearly 40 percent of all civilian owned guns. Many outside observers are not surprised by our high homicide and massacre rates. Yes, guns alone are clearly not the sole problem, but yes—more people are killed by guns in the US than in any other developed nation, and yes, a mature responsible society is a society that is willing to take a long hard look at even those things it considers most sacred.

Callie Vandewiele is a resident of Southeast Portland who moved recently from Clackamas County.


An earlier online version of this opinion piece misidentified the national chain that temporarily restricted sales on certain types of semi-automatic weapons. We apologize for the error.

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