In the aftermath of the January 2011 Arizona shooting spree, when a nine year old girl and five others were killed and more than a dozen others, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, were injured, gun violence in America once again was the focus of debate for several weeks.
But, despite the predictable healthy dose of rhetoric following such tragedies, no remedies have ever resulted, nor has a damn thing ever been done to change irresponsible gun laws.
The relentless argument about whether or not our society has too many guns — it’s estimated there’s at least one firearm for every American — seems to be at the heart of some news stories that have made national headlines so far this year.
Here’s a sample:
-A gunman opened fire at a small Christian university in Oakland, California last week, killing at least seven people, wounding three and ended with his capture at a nearby shopping center.
-A teenager, described in media reports as a bullied outcast, opened fire in a suburban Cleveland high school cafeteria in late February, killing three students and wounding two others before being caught.
-The most recurring news story of late has been the hue and cry surrounding the Trayvon Martin shooting, in which neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed Stanford, Florida teenager, claiming self-defense, under controversial state law. In a 911 call, Zimmerman said he followed the suspicious-looking teen “in a hoodie, walking slowly and looking into houses” before Martin attacked him.
Just as I was finishing this column, it was reported that four police officers were wounded in Sheepshead Bay early Sunday morning, after they engaged in a gun battle and shot the assailant. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly later noted that the shooter’s handgun was originally bought in Wilmington, N.C., and a sawed-off rifle he had was stolen in Florida. Not surprisingly, those states have lax rules for gun ownership.
Decades after Virginia Tech and Columbine, those school shooting massacres remain grim echoes in our national conscience that resurface in most squabbles over gun control.
Though some members of Congress publicly advocate gun control, when push comes to shove, they lack the guts to stand their ground and support legislation that defies the resolute position of the National Rifle Association (NRA), even when it comes to banning AK-47s or other assault weapons that can kill dozens in a few seconds. Most politicians avoid confronting the issue, rather than face certain backlash from the well-funded gun lobby and its influence on gun-owning voters at the polls.
A couple of years ago, when writing on this debate for the umpteenth time, I learned that from 2004-2010, more than 600 individuals on the terrorist watch list underwent background checks when they attempted to purchase firearms or explosives. However, when an individual on the list does not have a felony conviction, illegal alien status or other prohibitive information, the firearms transaction is acceptable and not pursued by law enforcement. The Government Accounting Office, which tracks such purchases, reported in 2010 that more than one thousand (91 percent) such purchases went unchecked.
The incident in Sheepshead Bay called attention to Mayor Bloomberg’s steadfast campaign to urge Congress to enact tougher gun laws.
Testifying at a hearing before Congress two years ago, Bloomberg, a staunch advocate to combat illegal guns, asked South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham if someone is on a no-fly list, isn’t it “reasonable to assume that person should not be allowed to buy a gun?”
Proposed legislation went nowhere because Graham, backed by other pro-gun ownership senators, said such a law “would deny U.S. citizens on the terrorist watch list their Second Amendment rights.”
Graham added, with a straight face, “There’s no constitutional right to fly, but there is one to keep and bear arms.”
More often than not, the NRA and its gun-loving members value their misguided Second Amendment right to bear arms more than America’s safety. As the nation experienced an overall drop in crime over the last decade, according to the National Institute of Justice, gun-related murders increased marginally.
I get annoyed every time gun fanatics ignore early American history and the impetus for the Second Amendment. Colonists existed for decades under the oppression of a foreign power, and one method to contest that tyranny was to put weapons in the hands of a “regulated militia.”
Today, other than a few wacko factions that do not recognize the U.S. government, no external regime threatens our existence. Besides, we already have controlled regulated militias that eliminate any need for groups or individuals armed to the teeth.
Moreover, if stricter gun laws are endorsed and laws make it mandatory to license all firearms — like we do our pets, cars and bicycles — there’s likely to be fewer guns.
Yet, gun-related crimes will not end with harsher laws and mandatory licensing, but if they were enacted and enforced, it could have a great impact in the effort to enhance public safety.
The unrestricted glut of firearms continues to plague our nation, and until Congress makes it a priority to adopt responsible legislation and stop being bullied by the NRA, gun-related crimes will continue to ruin lives, diminish liberty and limit the pursuit of happiness.