What to do Now with Guns Fever
Has the slaughter of 20 small children finally stirred enough politicians to risk the wrath of the National Rifle Association by taking a few protective steps to prevent continuing repeats of this and the other horrendous mass murders we have come to expect in this gun-obsessed society?
The president, who was shaken so visibly by the killings, said finally it’s time for action—unspecified. He has dodged the issue of any form of gun control as long as he’s been in the White House, scared into silence by the ludicrous but persistent lie that he wants to take away your guns—whoever you are and wherever you are.
It’s understandable. The NRA is the most powerful and scarifying lobby in Washington—surpassing even AIPAC.
The Democrats, as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, surrendered to the NRA in their 2004 platform, which, for the first time included a plank supporting Second Amendment rights—well before the US Supreme Court ruled on the issue.
There are fewer than 100 congressional districts where a candidate can advocate any form of gun control with no fear of defeat. Those are mostly big-city districts where mayors and police chiefs also support gun control.
Is there anyone else in Congress who is willing to stand up and actually legislate on behalf of future victims of future Newtown and Auroras and Columbines?
I was stupefied to read in Charles Blow’s New York Times column that a 53 percent majority of Americans don’t even support a ban on assault weapons.
Yet that seems to be the first and possibly the only immediately feasible step that could be taken, given today’s legislative climate or the politics of the Supreme Court.
We had a ten-year ban on assault weapons—which belong only in the hands of the military and perhaps some urban police forces that face drug gangs equipped with similar weaponry—but that expired four years ago. (Candidate Mitt Romney—remember him? —was actually unaware it had expired!)
Assault weapons fire continuously, making mass murder possible in a relatively few seconds in a crowded movie house or classroom.
The other possible legislation, perhaps, could be the banning of multi-cartridge gun clips, which turn most of today’s very common semiautomatic handguns into virtual assault weapons themselves. All the killer has to do is keep squeezing that trigger to get off twenty or thirty rounds in a minute or so.
What in the world has an assault weapon or semiautomatic handgun got to do with hunting as an avocation or target shooting as a sport?
Finally, can’t the less rabid supporters of the NRA accept the idea of strict background checks for purchasers, especially at gun shows? No, it will not filter out many mass killers, but it would be worth it to stop even one lunatic a year from repeating any of the multiple murders of recent times.
Then again, with luck Obama might soon be able to replace one or more of the real enablers of those crimes, five guys named Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts and Kennedy.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer