That the random taking of life in the United States is a moral, social and economic crisis cannot be overstated. This problem is complex and it will not have a simple or comfortable answer.

At its root, the United States is a secular country of laws. Its “Ten Commandments” are the Bill of Rights. Trafficking with one of them, in this case the Second Amendment, can lead to the destruction of them all.

That said, there is no reason for any person who is not working in a recognized military organization — with its rules, regulations and sacred oath — to own a military-grade firearm. Our family has experienced the damage such weapons deliver. Granted, the incident took place within a combat circumstance. Our son, Lt. Col. Matthew Smith (OPRF ’94 and Tradition of Excellence OPRF ’17), was ambushed by one of our Afghan allies in 2013. He was shot from behind with an American M-16, a weapon similar to an AR-15. It cost him his right leg. That detail does not alter the fact that military grade weapons are designed to deliver deadly force that mitigate collateral hostile situations. There is neither sport nor pleasure associated with that activity.

Should a person feel the need to fire such weapons, a regulated system where they may be fired in a controlled environment, under constant supervision and at a significant monetary cost could be created. If a person’s need to fire such weapons goes deeper than this alternative suggests, enlist in the Army. 

It is to that phenomenon of deeper needs where part of the root cause of this issue of violence resides. For all of the lip service paid to it, the issue of mental illness in this country still carries almost as much stigma as being HIV positive. Mental illness is being expressed in the anonymous power of cyberbullying, the cryptic shadow of denial and the overt inhumanity of random gun violence. 

The combination of overmedication and a hyperbolic news media is not the answer. The time is past to recognize the complexity of the problem and begin to implement resolutions. The rest is noise.

Joe Smith

Oak Park

Join the discussion on social media!