My Turn: Gun culture, family structure in America needs an overhaul

Mik Muller, Greenfield Recorder. Published March 8, 2018

I would like to share my agreement, although only in part, with Clayton W. Sibley’s letter in the Feb. 23 issue of this paper. Yes, many American kids are indeed emotionally vacant. And, yes, many grow up without mothers or fathers. In my opinion, the answer to this problem is an economic one.

When I was a small child, my mother stayed home. This was common back in the day. Practically since the founding of this country, there was typically one bread winner of the family, and that person earned enough to support the whole family.

Since the late 1970s/early ’80s, the tax rates have been slashed for the top earners, and pay rates have not kept up with inflation. Thus, support programs for low-income families have been slashed, and more and more of those parents now hold two jobs each. Or the financial pressure was too much for one of them and they left, leaving single-parent households. In all these cases, children come home to empty houses where the T.V. or game console is the babysitter until the parent comes home. And, of course, we all know T.V. and electronic games have become more and more violent. And then there’s the copy-cat syndrome. It’s been done, and apparently some troubled young men see glory in it.

But, of course, the flip side, and this is where I disagree with Clayton, is that the majority of the deadliest mass shootings since 2007 involved a weapon of war: the AR-15. This is not your grandpa’s hunting rifle. It is an assault rifle ... for assaulting people. It was designed for quickly and efficiently killing PEOPLE, not deer. There is no debate on this issue.

So, should we allow latch-key kids from single-parent homes to buy these weapons of war? No. But as you pointed out, that’s not the crux of the big picture. It’s the family structure in America.

I’ll go out on a limb here and make three suggestions that might help bring us back from the cliff:

1. Change the tax code to really support the middle and lower income families of our great country. Not the shell job we just witnessed. Fully fund the tax breaks (no more deficits, please!) and triple the budgets for every agency and after-school program that helps lower income families.

2. Raise the minimum wage over the next few years, so their kids can be fed and live in a safe home with parents that aren’t stressed about working two jobs. The federal minimum wage was $3.10 in 1980. That is $9.40 in today’s dollars. Currently the federal minimum wage is only $7.25. It should be at least $10. Parents need to earn a living wage to provide for their kids. This will also stimulate the economy.

3. Ban the sale of any and all assault weapons to persons under the age of 25. Shotguns and regular small capacity rifles are fine. 18 year-olds do NOT need to own a 30-round magazine, semi-automatic assault weapon, nor should they have access to one. Owners of these weapons should be required to undergo certification training (which includes both use and safe storage of these weapons), with a regular recertification period.

And, as an extra, bonus suggestion, which even I think is a little crazy, perhaps institute a mandatory two-year stint in military service. Yes, that’s right. Just like in Switzerland and Israel, every American should be required to serve two years in a branch of the military as a teen. No exemptions. And during their training, be taught how to use and learn respect for firearms.

Michael Muller lives in Greenfield.