By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Paraphrasing Ronald Reagan: Here we go again.
President Reagan, recall, was shot in 1981 by a crazed gunman; his press secretary Brady was severely injured and spent a lifetime incapacitated. It took another 12 years, but the Brady Bill was passed, mandating a background check and waiting period (of five days, later reduced by George W Bush); a ban on assault weapons was passed in 1994 and effectively curtailed senseless, devastating mass shootings for a decade, until George W Bush allowed the ban to expire.
Interesting that a would-be terrorist hides a bomb in his underwear and the government spends billions of dollars installing devices that can peer through your clothes, hires an army of TSA officials to pat you down and look through your luggage for a liquid over 3 ounces. A guy puts some kind of explosive in his sneaker and now we all have to take off our shoes. There are no-fly lists that keep people with a similar name off an airplane, but a terrorist who is on the no-fly list can still walk into a gun shop and purchase an AR15.
After yet another massacre, nothing. Only this time, two massacres within 13 hours of each other, 3 if you add in just a few weeks before; four if you add Odessa just days after. Over 250 if you count just since Jan. 1. And that doesn’t include the gun deaths, injuries fewer than four at a time. Hard to keep track, and the NRA-controlled Congress makes sure of it, banning the CDC from even researching gun violence as a public health hazard.
What was Texas response after back-to-back mass killings? The state actually eased restrictions, requiring schools, churches, businesses, stores to allow open carry (My press request to find out if guns were allowed into Texas courts, its Capital building, Governor’s office, town halls with legislators was ignored). My response? I’m not going anywhere near Texas, I wouldn’t let my child attend school in Texas (a Long Island girl was murdered in her college parking lot by an ex-boyfriend), and I would hope businesses – even South by Southwest – find some place else to locate.
I’m not alone. Several countries have issued travel warnings against visiting the United States because of rampant, epidemic, uncontrolled gun violence, costing billions in receipts and thousands of jobs. The list includes China, Japan, New Zealand, Uruguay, Venezuela.
Each year, there is this near-religious recitation of the 3,000 victims of 9/11. But where is the recitation for the 3,000 victims of gun violence just this month? This country experiences the equivalent of September 11 each and every month – 33,000 a year, 594,000 since September 11, 2001.
And still the Republicans do nothing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch “The Grim Reaper” McConnell has even blocked the sensible gun safety legislation that passed out of the House months ago with a smattering of Republican votes. Trump, whose rhetoric and policies have unleashed much of the violence (“He may not have pulled the trigger, but his tweets were the ammunition,” said Kamala Harris), including disrupted acts, like the guy just sentenced to 20 years for threatening a long list of Trump critics), dodges even passing universal background checks saying, “There isn’t the political will.” Bullsh-t. The vast majority of Americans, around 90%, including Republicans and gun owners, want universal background checks and other measures too.
In just the 200 days since Mitch “Grim Reaper” McConnell has refused to take up gun safety legislation that passed the House, 18,000 people have been killed, tens of thousands more maimed physically and/or mentally for life.
The absurd notion that guns cannot be regulated (even though “well-regulated” only appears in the Second Amendment) is contradicted by the fact you can’t take a gun into a courthouse, into Congress, into State Houses (the politicians like to protect themselves), on an airplane, and even in the so-called Wild West which supposedly makes wielding guns part of American culture, guns were regulated.
Now you have White Supremacists engaged in a contest to break records of how many killed in a single massacre. The dregs of the earth are forcing the rest of us to live in fear, in terror.
Guns are supposed to be for self-defense and hunting. Well, AR15s and AK47s – which according to some data are used in 8% of violent crimes - are weapons of war designed to kill as many PEOPLE in as short a time frame as possible. Even hunting has strict requirements – you must have a license, you have to pay fees, and you are restricted what, when and how many you can hunt. But no such restrictions on hunting people. The number I would find more relevant, though, is the proportion of innocent victims, or even targets of domestic terror, that are caused by assault weapons. Whatever the number, it vastly exceeds even total deaths by guns in other countries.
Beto O’Rourke, who has found his raison d’etre as a presidential candidate after the terror attack on El Paso, in which 22 people were killed and another 25 injured in just six minutes, declared at the Democratic Debate in Houston, “If the high impact, high velocity round, when it hits your body, shreds everything inside of your body, because it was designed to do that, so that you would bleed to death on a battlefield and not be able to get up and kill one of our soldiers.
“When we see that being used against children... hell, yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against our fellow Americans anymore.”
No one policy or restriction will address every incidence of gun violence. And I am not satisfied with just doing one thing, like universal background checks or “red lining,” though these are the absolute minimums.
Here’s what needs to be done:
Renew the 1994 assault weapons ban. Too many still in people’s hands? The most popular gun? Have a buy-back program with a timeline to bring them in and increase the felony charges for possession.
Smart guns would go a long way to ending tragedies by children who get their parents’ guns, robbers who steal homeowners’ weapons, the straw-man acquisitions that negate background checks.
Restrict ammo capacity. Horrifying to think of the 20 people dead in Dayton in just 32 seconds, well before the “good guy with a gun” could do anything.
Tax purchases of guns, ammo, equipment, the money going to Victims’ Fund.
Limit how many guns, how much ammo can be purchased; ban online sales altogether; prosecute straw purchases; prosecute gun trafficking into jurisdictions with restrictive gun laws (instead, the NRA has been wanting Republicans to make the least restrictive laws, like open carry, valid in places a person travels to).
Pass Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation (Red Flag laws) preventing individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing a firearm; establish stricter reporting requirements to prevent those deemed by a mental health professional to be a danger to themselves or others from purchasing a firearm (Obama had this; the Republicans rescinded it, but now attribute every gun crime to mental illness, without doing a lick about it).
Requiring training, licensing, registration (we require voter registration, don’t we), and a national database; require gun owners to have special liability insurance (like auto insurance, homeowners insurance).
Prosecute gun owners if guns are not secured and used to commit crime, violence; prosecute parents for negligent homicide if child gets hold of gun and kills someone or themselves.
And of course, pass universal background checks closing the private gun sales and gun-shows and online sales loopholes.
I’m willing to bet my life that these changes will save thousands of lives – multiple September 11ths – each year.
The notion that “criminals will still get guns and use them,” is like saying “murderers will still murder, so why have a law making murder illegal?” The fact is that the common denominator among these atrocities isn’t mental illness – the vast majority of people with mental illness don’t commit gun violence, and mental illness is evenly distributed among humans, so why does the USA have such disproportionately high levels of gun violence/), it’s the ease and accessibility of acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
And the fact they aren’t banned or restricted or taxed or licensed or registered is what creates the cultural predisposition that guns are A-OK in American society.
Any sensible gun regulation is a “slippery slope” to gun confiscation? That’s like saying that requiring people to be licensed and register cars is the slippery slope to government confiscating all cars. The fact is that voting is specified in the Constitution, also, but Republicans have no qualms about restrictive voter registration.
Republicans play a shell game when it comes to gun safety legislation – it’s not the gun, it’s the person. It’s not the person it’s the gun. It’s not the easy access to WMD, it’s mental health, but Republicans cut access to mental health. We don’t want an assault weapons ban, we want Redlining – a kind of “prequel” justice that you can just bet will not be evenly meted out. Or this beauty, “We won’t pass anything unless we know the President will sign it.” Funny the Republicans didn’t care what legislation Obama supported – in any case, with 90% of Americans wanting gun safety legislation, they shouldn’t have a problem overriding a veto.
I know what will settle this in a New York minute: if blacks, browns and liberals rush out and buy AR15s and AK47s and high-capacity ammo clips – indeed the NRA supported gun control in the 1960s in order to disarm the Black Panthers – no concern for the Constitution’s 2nd Amendment rights then. I would recommend it, if it wouldn’t enrich the gun manufacturers.
We are all living in fear. If unrestricted access to guns represents “liberty” and “freedom” the rest of us are robbed of both “liberty” and “freedom,” forced to live behind walls and metal detectors. The growth industry in this country is Security, which takes resources away from actual education, healthcare, actual creative business pursuits. Meanwhile, the cost of gun violence – lost lives, lost productivity, health and remedial costs – skyrocket. And that should end.
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