Tuesday night, I went with a friend to the Giants’ 5-0 win over the Dodgers at Oracle Park. The new nature of baseball suggested that something can be done about mass shootings.

As a kid in the 50s living in New York, I went to Yankees, Giants and Dodgers games. They lasted about two-and-a-half hours. Some went longer, others shorter.

Over the last decades, games stretched out to three hours-plus. TV contributed. There’s big money in airing commercials between innings. Major League Baseball is, above all, a business.

Players also dragged out games. Pitchers took more time between pitches. Sometimes, they rubbed the baseball as if they were going to take the hide off it. They spent time hitching up their pants and walking around the mound as if looking for buried treasure. Hitters stepped out of the batter’s box after every pitch to adjust everything from batting gloves to cups.

MLB finally took action. In 2020, it introduced the “ghost” runner, who started each extra half-inning on second base to generate a winning run more quickly. It worked. The ghost runner was made permanent.

This season, MLB made another exceptional change. The clock—critical to football, basketball and hockey—was never part of baseball. It is now. Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty, 20 seconds with a runner on. From time to time Tuesday night, I glanced at the clock on the scoreboard. Only one pitcher—Giants’ closer Camilo Doval—had a problem. 

That’s a long explanation to approach a quick—call it basic—thought about gun violence. When it came to introducing a clock to speed games, baseball purists balked. They cited tradition. MLB went forward. Game lengths are down. The Dodgers and Giants played in two hours and thirty-eight minutes. All the action remained.

Identifying a problem demands exploring solutions. In 2023, America already has experienced more than 140 mass shootings—four or more people killed and/or wounded, excluding the shooter. Nashville and Louisville represent the latest. 

Conservatives’ solution? Thoughts and prayers. Sadly—maddeningly—these don’t revive dead children and adults or bring comfort to parents, partners and friends of the slain. Neither do they yield faster healing of survivors’ physical wounds or ease the mental anguish they may always endure.

I’m not calling for a ban on all guns. That just won’t happen in America. But all of us need to demand that our politicians—and citizens—open serious discussions about who can buy weapons and banning assault-style rifles.

Conservatives prefer to preach rather than talk. They cite the “slippery slope” theory. Take AR-15s and high-capacity magazines out of our hands now, and hunting rifles will be next. “They” will come for us.

“They” already are, slaughtering the innocent almost daily. “Trump, God and guns” Second-Amendment purists bury their heads in the sand and refuse to entertain thoughts of change no matter how great the continuing bloodbath. Tradition!

Anyone who’s served in the military or law enforcement knows that assault weapons were developed with two purposes: Kill other human beings and maximize the severity of the livings’ wounds. 

I suffer no illusions about gun “control.” But if MLB can adopt a clock to shorten games, Americans can talk rationally about banning assault rifles to lengthen lives.

Happy Orthodox Easter!

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