Monday, October 27, 2014

Congress Dawdles As Gun Violence Continues

Amid efforts to quell panic about the Ebola crisis, last Friday morning’s school shooting story didn’t reap the customary media spotlight it warranted. The first news that two were dead and four wounded after a student opened fire in a Washington state high school cafeteria, incited shock, sorrow and, certainly, a lot of heads filled with, “Oh, no, not again” thinking. But within days, the story was pretty much an afterthought.
Anxiety over the virus is imperative and it calls for extensive awareness to facilitate control of the deadly disease, but this recent gun violence also merits equal consideration, not a back seat to the health issue.
Statistics estimate that, on average, almost 100 people are killed by guns each day in America. Gun violence is a disorder that, regrettably, only engrosses the national spotlight when it occurs at an educational institution, like the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in 2011, or the one in Littleton, Colorado fifteen years ago.
Since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, I’ve written a number of columns about America’s obsession with guns and my disgust with indifferent lawmakers, who continue to bow to National Rifle Association pressure, and, for the most part, never face relatives of gun violence victims. Below are revised portions of my 1999 article, as well as fresh thoughts on the matter.
One thing was crystal clear in the outcome of the violent events in Littleton, Colorado, and it’s echoed in Stephen Stills’ lyrics to “For What It’s Worth”: “There’s somethin’ happenin’ here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. There’s a man with a gun over there, tellin’ me I got beware…”
No one could have predicted that an ordinary April school day in 1999 would end so tragically. But it did, when two heavily armed students casually walked into their high school, assuring April would be the cruelest month for that community.
The depraved twosome outfitted in long, black coats, camouflage pants, combat boots and carrying a variety of weapons and ammunition, were more suitably prepared for a heavy assault, or a Quentin Tarantino movie, than a day in school.
When the pair’s bloody mission was over, they committed suicide, but not before killing thirteen students and wounding almost two dozen others.
Shock rapidly mushroomed into outrage as TV viewers, glued to the breaking the news, watched police lead frightened students and teachers to safety as the latest fatal chapter unfolded in the habitually serene bosom of suburbia, that has become a common narrative executed by a small segment of anti-social youth.
We’re beyond head scratching, soul searching and prayers when it comes to those who commit such brutal acts. Those types, whose behavior recalls the untamed Wild West, will always be lurking in society’s nooks and crannies to strike again.
Up to and including Columbine there were at least ten shooting incidents in eight small-town schools in a little over two years with more than 30 killed. Two of the most notorious episodes since then occurred at Virginia Tech and Newtown, CT.
There’s no remedy to eliminate the disease that results in gun violence, but, perhaps, a saner path to contain it is to enact stronger and more inflexible gun laws, as well as introduce tougher background checks to make it more challenging to obtain an instrument with a single function to kill.
In 2005, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives undeniably nudged by the NRA confirmed that it legislates more for gun manufacturers than it does for the well-being and safety of Americans. The House overwhelmingly approved legislation that granted immunity to gun makers and distributors from being sued by gun violence victims, which created a blanket protection not provided to any other business. A few months earlier, the Senate passed a similar bill. President Bush subsequently signed the bill into law.
The argument that the Second Amendment ultimately protects us from a tyrannical government is 18th century thinking. Article 1, Section of the Constitution suggests the need for “a well-regulated militia,” NOT a gun for every household.
We have limited speech in the name of political correctness, so as not offend.
Our Fourth Amendment rights have been curtailed in the name of National Security since 9/11/01.
Privacy has been curbed with the expansion of public cameras, in the name of safety.
Eminent Domain gives the government the right to limit private property rights when it favors the public interest.
Consequently, in the interest of the public good, we must limit gun ownership solely to militias, government organized law enforcement units and, in some cases, restricted to selected private owners who conscientiously register their weapons. 
As grief and sadness haunt the Marysville school community near Seattle, it should stir the collective national conscience to demand, once and for all, that Congress end its submissive mind-set toward the NRA and support practical modifications to ambiguous gun laws to deter the violence that continues to plague our schools, our cities and validates America’s exclusive obsession with guns.