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Thoughtful approach needed to reduce violence

How do you make sense of the senseless?

You don’t. It’s impossible.

I won’t try.

Certainly, the staff of The Outlook — and really, all of the member news organizations of the Pamplin Media Group — are as deeply affected as anyone else by the shooting at Reynolds High School, which shattered our peaceful lives on Tuesday morning.

As a company, our collective hearts go out to Emilio Hoffman’s parents and family, who will never again hear his laugh or watch him on the soccer field; and to shooter Jared Padgett’s family, who must be overcome with confusion and remorse.

We cannot even begin to imagine the sense of loss and sadness that these families feel only three days removed from the shooting.

And to the first responders and all of the law enforcement and emergency crews who responded, you have our gratitude and sincerest thanks. We know this was not easy for you as you dealt firsthand with these senseless, senseless deaths.

We extend our sincerest condolences to the families, friends and communities that have been so deeply hurt by this horrific event. No words can be written here that will diminish the pain. We won’t try.

But we would like you to know that you are not alone. Tens of thousands of people in East County and the metro area collectively hold you in the embrace of their thoughts and prayers.

While The Outlook will continue to report the news as it unfolds, we also will continue to bear in mind that this is not just another big headline. This is about two real boys — Emilio and Jared and their tragic ends — and the communities they called home. We promise to treat this story with professionalism and sensitivity.

And to that end, I — as executive editor of The Outlook — cannot ignore the fact that a 15-year-old boy, Jared Padgett, accessed weapons owned by his father, which he used to carry out his deadly attack.

I cannot stress enough the importance of separating guns from ammunition and locking those firearms away from the reach of underage children, even those we believe to be responsible and harmless.

So you can put into context where I come from on this topic, I should disclose that I own guns. I grew up in Northeast Portland near 82nd Avenue and attended Vestal Grade School and Madison High School, the child of a man who hunted birds and who took me deer hunting at a young age. It’s a part of my lifestyle that continues today well into my 50s and long after my father’s death. This fall, I will use my dad’s rifle on my deer and elk hunting adventures into Eastern Oregon.

The people who know me would describe me as an avid hunter, while others — like my wife — might say I have an obsession.

So it will not surprise you when I say, in general, I bristle at the notion of limitations on gun ownership. That’s because my opinions have been shaped by a lifetime steeped in activities involving rifles and shotguns.

To me, these weapons are tools akin to a fishing rod for a person who enjoys catching salmon. While others may view firearms as wicked, I see them simply as another piece of outdoor equipment that needs to be handled with great care and intent.

I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution — stricter gun control — as the placebo that will end this escalating nightmare of shootings on school campuses across this nation.

This is a far more complex issue that demands deeper thinking than a one-issue agenda of gun control.

But I will say this: While I fervently support gun ownership, I do not believe thoughtful rules and regulations regarding firearms pose any threat to gun ownership.

To that end, I say, NRA be damned.

There are very simple things that can, and should, be done at the legislative level that will help reduce the risk of gun violence, while doing nothing to interfere with the right to own firearms.

Right off the top, Oregon’s lawmakers should consider requiring all gun owners in Oregon to lock up their weapons to prevent them from being accessed by children.

That law will be next to impossible to enforce because it mandates a behavior that will rest on compliance by people within the private walls of their homes, a place police can’t go without a warrant. But such a law would put gun owners on notice that if that weapon falls into the wrong hands because it was unsecured, they will share some level of culpability.

From there, the collective force of peer pressure by law-abiding gun owners would need to be used to change the mindset of all gun owners to willingly comply.

Such a law would be similar to what we have already become accustomed to. We wear seat belts in cars because it’s the law, not necessarily because we want to. Over time — through peer pressure and the help of police officers and their helpful citations — we just automatically buckle up. We do it because it saves lives and prevents injuries to ourselves and passengers. It’s the right thing to do.

Likewise, we aren’t allowed to talk on cell phones or text while driving, because it endangers ourselves and other people.

And yet, neither of those laws hinders our rights or ability to own and operate a vehicle or cell phone.

The mandatory use of gun safes and other security measures will do nothing to keep anyone from owning or legally using their firearms, when appropriate.

Let’s urge our lawmakers to address this topic during the next legislative session.

Lawmakers also should reconsider the ideas of universal background checks. This is not popular among my fellow gun owners. It’s another level of bureaucracy, but it would close a loophole. Right now, you can buy a gun at a garage sale without going through a criminal background check. We need to end that practice in Oregon.

Lastly, we ought to look beyond gun control, and seriously invest in programs that enable trained professionals to identify and intervene in the lives of the young men who seem most vulnerable to carrying out attacks on school campuses.

What these kids need are connections that make them feel part of something bigger. As a society, we need to help these young men find hope where now, they only have hopelessness.

Steve Brown is executive editor of the Gresham Outlook, Sandy Post and Estacada News.



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