Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
In the aftermath of what is arguably the most horrific, emotionally impactful mass homicide in memory, nearly every commentator in both print and digital media has evoked the specter of the NRA. Its history of successful campaigns to deter, deflect and defeat every effort by governmental authorities throughout the United States, whether local, state or federal, to pass effective gun control legislation is legendary. Employing huge sums of money, highly emotional (often factually incorrect) advertising and misinterpretations of the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the NRA has succeeded in its efforts to keep our country among the most gun-saturated civilized countries in the world. The success of its campaign is reflected in opinion polls which repeatedly show Americans to be sharply divided on questions of gun control measures.
Not surprisingly, efforts to challenge the NRA seem fruitless to many. Indeed, in many communities all over the country, in some states more than others, such efforts are indeed doomed to fail. Accordingly, let our focus shift from our country at large to our own locales where failure is not pre-ordained.
In each of the towns of Martha’s Vineyard, including my own West Tisbury, surely an effort to counter America’s pervasive gun culture can be mounted and might just possibly succeed. That effort could even be a radical one, not some halfway measure that pussyfoots around the issue by distinguishing one kind of lethal weapon from another.
I propose that the West Tisbury selectmen prepare a warrant for consideration at a special town meeting in which all guns in citizens’ homes be controlled. Control could mean registered, licensed, secured in locked cabinets, maybe even banned from private ownership altogether. Perhaps every gun in private ownership would have to be surrendered in return for a financial incentive, say a tax refund or a cash payment. Voluntary programs of gun surrender exist in many communities around the nation; a mandatory surrender program would be only a small additional step.
Were West Tisbury to take the lead, perhaps the other towns on the Vineyard would soon follow suit, if one or more of them hadn’t already initiated a gun surrender program on its own. Wherever the program might originate on this lovely Island, known far and wide for its natural beauty, native charms and well-educated population, it could serve as a model to be emulated by community after community around the nation.
Let’s at least begin a discussion of my not-so-radical proposal: that we search for ways to secure guns in a manner that enables us to control our deer population, maintain a small but effective police force, and serve whatever other pro-community function guns might properly serve.
Marshall H. Segall, West Tisbury