Monday, December 7, 2015

When It Comes To Common-Sense Gun Control, Congress Lacks Guts

I planned to repost a column that I wrote for the 20th anniversary of John Lennon’s assassination. That strategy was sidelined after last week’s massacre in San Bernardino.
Even so, the two events, despite a 35-year separation, are connected to some extent. They both occurred in December in a hail of bullets. Lennon’s death was committed by a crazed, lone gunman. The California massacre appears to be an elaborate scheme carried out by two fanatical Muslims.
In between those tragedies, there have been innumerable shootings, but, in 2015, that alarming trend has proliferated. The December 2nd slaughter was the 355th mass shooting of the year. Undeniably, armed right-wing fanatics, with lawfully purchased weapons, are as threatening to America’s domestic tranquility as radical Muslim terrorism.
It’s getting so that for such template news, only datelines and names of the victims and shooters change.
NRA advocates conveniently veil themselves behind a misguided Second Amendment ideology, and others shake their heads arguing nothing can be done, as bodies keep piling up.
If legislators, who play the influential gun lobby’s game, were directly affected by such tragedies, involving family or friends, more than likely, they’d quit twiddling thumbs, offering crocodile sympathy and abruptly enact responsible gun safety laws.
Center for Disease Control statistics indicate states, including Alaska, Alabama and Louisiana, with weaker gun laws have higher gun death rates, per capita, than states with stricter laws, such as New York. Actually, congressional representatives from just those three states received combined donations from the NRA totaling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Within a day after the San Bernardino killings, the U.S. Senate figuratively poured salt on, and dishonored, the memories of the dead and wounded when it voted against measures to close loopholes, including one to expand background checks for potential gun buyers, and another to end the “terror gap” that allows individuals on terror watch lists to buy guns.
The right to board an airplane excludes anyone on the government’s Terrorist Watch List, but legislators refuse to ban those same individuals from obtaining firearms.
Sometimes it seems the NRA and its gun-obsessed members value their misguided Second Amendment right to possess firearms more than the nation’s safety.
As details about the San Bernardino shootings came out, police there said the suspects not only had stockpiled a cache of weapons and explosives, but their home contained 7,000 rounds of ammunition, in addition to the 2,000 they discharged and discovered in their rental vehicle.
Makes “armed to the teeth” seem trifling.
Though the shooters were apparently radical Muslims, they could have been radicalized white Christian fundamentalists or white supremacists. Ultimately, what is most frightening was how easily they were able to accumulate a deadly arsenal of weapons and ammunition.
Words of sorrow and prayers are not nearly enough. Around the nation, laws have been approved and updated to curtail drunken driving accidents. And, while I don’t completely support New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero program to reduce traffic fatalities, at least he did something to reduce accidents, which seems to be working.
Congress should act similarly and initiate weapons-related reforms. Place a limit on the number of guns any individual can purchase and reduce accessibility to some models, especially assault rifles; mandate universal background checks, outlaw high-capacity magazines, ban random weapons sales at gun shows and limit the amount of ammunition one individual or household may possess. Completely ending mass shootings or gun violence is, of course, a pipe dream. But not doing a damned thing is negligent and irresponsible.
Congressional representatives, who habitually bleed red, white and blue, would be wiser to recognize that too many Americans have already bled, which is ultimately attributable to their constant rejection of common sense gun control.
Back in the 80s, there was a feeble effort to curb the drug epidemic, naively referred to as the War on Drugs. It was unsuccessful, but, at least, there the government initiated a program to attack the crisis. What we need now to end the weapons epidemic is a War on Guns. Sounds kind of superfluous, but you get the point.
Cities across the nation have initiated wars on crime and, in the last 20 years, the national rate has declined. Why can’t Congress see that America’s passion for weapons is a disease that has led to an incessant scourge that destroys thousands of lives?
And, the NRA should stop promoting its worn-out, harebrained slogan, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s people WITH guns who kill people.
Moreover, most guns are expressly designed with a single function: TO KILL PEOPLE. Radical motives may induce these killers, but it is the weapon or weapons they almost certainly effortlessly collect that turn into tools of mass destruction. Instead of gutless legislators concerned about Syrian refugees, they should be more alarmed about America’s exceptional gun crisis.
Since the Columbine shootings over 26 years ago, I’ve written more than a dozen columns advocating common-sense gun control (Is that an oxymoron?). There have been nine mass shootings in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre, which occurred two years ago next Monday. I wrote my last piece advocating gun control 14 months ago. This is number 16.
I’m confident this won’t be my last.
To close, I send a message to Congress, with fitting Bob Dylan lyrics that impact my point of view: How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?