Ubiñas: For some folks, it's easier to get a gun than to get the point

Helen Ubiñas with a newly purchased assault rifle.

WHILE THE rest of us are mourning the horrific loss of life in Orlando, and trying to come up with actual solutions that might make our nation safer, gun fans are dancing in the streets over the fact that the high-capacity, semiautomatic, military-style rifle wielded by Omar Mateen was not built on the AR-15 platform.

"Hey stupid. You got the wrong gun. It wasn't an AR-15. Get your facts straight you lib-hole," read one email in response to my column describing the seven minutes it took me to acquire an AR-15 rifle.

If I were a hard-core "gun enthusiast" - I don't mean those who occasionally hunt or target-shoot, but someone who truly worships these deadly weapons - it might matter to me that Mateen's rifle used gas-piston technology rather than the direct impingement process traditionally used with AR-style rifles.

It might matter to me that Mateen's Sig Sauer MCX - the gun that police now say he used to massacre 49 people and injure 53 more in an Orlando nightclub - was modeled after a weapon developed for U.S. Special Forces, whereas ARs were modeled after a weapon developed for regular military units.

It might matter to me that the MCX is optimized for .300 Blackout cartridges, whereas the AR-15s are typically chambered for .223 ammunition.

But all of that spectacularly misses the point.

The point is that it is too damn easy to obtain high-capacity deadly weapons in this country.

By now, many others have illustrated the eye-opening reality I wrote about the other day, when in just minutes I was able to walk into a Philadelphia gun shop and emerge with a brand-new semiautomatic rifle.

I wasn't alone.

A reporter in Vermont bought an AR-15 - the particular style of semiautomatic rifle used in several other mass shootings in this country - for $500 in a Five Guys parking lot nine minutes after meeting a seller he'd found online earlier Monday.

And two days after Mateen went on his rampage in a popular gay nightclub, two Huffington Post reporters were able to purchase an AR-15 in Orlando in 38 minutes.

So, yeah, had we all waited a day until the police corrected themselves and clarified the specific rifle Mateen used, each of us would have marched into a gun shop and effortlessly purchased a Sig Sauer MCX instead.

The fact is, the dead haven't even been buried yet, and it's still as obscenely easy as ever to obtain a semiautomatic gun in this country. Welcome to America.

For those who hear the word gun and blindly, stubbornly, assume their positions over this country's most divisive issue, I'll repeat what I said in my previous column.

This isn't just about guns. It's about a country simmering - drowning, really - in hate often stoked for the sake of popularity and political gain. And increasingly, guns are the instrument of that hate. An obscenely accessible instrument of hate.

And the hateful reaction (c-word and all) that I've received proves that the fear and hatred is coming from right here in the good ol' U.S.A.

For those who conveniently forgot this, Mateen was born here, as were the South Carolina church shooter, the Virginia Tech shooter, the Columbine shooters, the Sandy Hook shooter. . . .

These were our people, our terrorists.

Wednesday's hate came storming into my inbox and my Twitter feed and Facebook and voice mail. People spewed hate because I had the nerve to point out how easy it is to acquire an instrument that can turn an emotion - our collective go-to-emotion these days - into mass carnage.

When I walked into that gun store Monday, I didn't know anything about the gun I was about to purchase. I didn't know how to hold it or shoot it. And I didn't have to prove to anyone that I could, yet in only seven minutes I was eligible to become another Pennsylvania gun owner.

Think about that. If someone is so full of rage, on a mission to kill, a mass-casualty incident can be minutes away.

Tuesday's column was by far my most widely read and shared piece in 20-plus years as a journalist. At last count, it had more than 468,000 page views online. It hit a nerve on both sides of the gun issue. As I write this, I am still being overwhelmed by responses. It trended on Facebook. It was mentioned during a Democratic filibuster in the Senate on gun control.

But none of that means squat if nothing comes from it. And so far, the reaction makes me think that's exactly what will happen. Gun fans are still screaming about their Second Amendment rights, innocent victims be damned. And antigun or pro-gun-control types, including myself, are still thinking - hoping might be a better word - that maybe the latest mass shooting will turn the discussion and debate into action.

We're fools.

Maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. I am hearing some politicians at least say the right words - again. But then, if there is one thing politicians are never at a loss for after a mass shooting, it's words.

Wednesday, on the floor of the Senate, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who led the filibuster, mentioned the deadly 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut to make his point that Congress has to act on gun violence.

"I can't tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the families of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook and tell them that almost four years later we've done nothing, nothing at all, to reduce the likelihood that that will happen again to another family," he said. "And I shudder to think what it's going to be like for [Florida] Sen. [Bill] Nelson four years from now to talk to the parents of those that were killed this weekend in Orlando and tell them that four years after Orlando, eight years after Newtown, Congress has been utterly silent."

"I've stood on this floor dozens of times talking about this subject," he continued. "And so this isn't new to me, but I'm at my wits' end. I've had enough. I've had enough of the ongoing slaughter of innocents, and I've had enough of inaction in this body."

Have we had enough?

Have we, really?

If we have, it's time to stop saying we have and actually do something about it.

Because words, especially all the ones wasted debating the difference between the AR-15 and the MCX, don't mean much to the dead, or to their grieving families.

Or to a nation adding names to a disgraceful, bloody list.

ubinas@phillynews.com

215-854-5943 @NotesFromHel

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