We’ve been silent way too long
December 20, 2012
Gun advocates have a solution for unspeakable disasters like the Newtown school massacre: More guns in the hands of our citizens.
Americans already own more than 200 million guns, giving us the dubious distinction of being the most heavily armed populous in the world. But people who truly believe (as The Beatles put it) that happiness is a warm gun want to eliminate as many gun-free zones as they can.
Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texan who apparently spends too much time outdoors during the summer months, told "Fox News Sunday" he wished the principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut had an assault rifle handy when presumed killer Adam Lanza began his murderous assault.
A Texas gun dealer is offering discounts to educators who want to become armed and dangerous, and the governor of Michigan said he will introduce legislation to allow schools to keep guns on the premises. Meanwhile, sales of bullet-proof backpacks (I didn't know they existed either) are up sharply.
When (Democrats) start bloviating about the Connecticut tragedy, you might ask them where they were four years ago.
The problem with guns is that they tend to get used when they are readily available. The U.S. leads the industrialized world with 30,000 gun-related deaths a year, and several studies show you are 40 percent more likely to be shot if there is a gun in the house.
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The Sandy Hook massacre is the ultimate argument for keeping guns out of the house. Nancy Lanza, Adam's mother, is described by relatives as a survivalist who accumulated five weapons to defend herself against the coming financial collapse. She even encouraged her two sons to learn how to shoot. Her youngest son used that arsenal to kill her, then 26 other people before taking his own life.
But the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled you have a constitutional right to keep a gun in your house to defend your life and property, and the justices may soon allow people to carry handguns in public. (If that happens, you should avoid bars and night clubs on Saturday nights.)
However, there are things we can do to make it more difficult for these disasters to occur. (In case you're becoming numb to these events, Sandy Hook is the fourth mass slaying in the U.S. this year.)
For starters, we need to revive the ban on weapons like the Buckmaster assault-type rifle, apparently becoming the weapon of choice for mass killers — it was the primary killing machine at Sandy Hook and the Aurora, Colo., theater bloodbath and was used by the D.C. sniper, who killed 10 people before he was finally caught.
No rational gun advocate (now there's an oxymoron) can make a case for this weapon being in broad circulation. It's a weapon of war — it's used by our troops in Afghanistan—that has enough power to shoot a bullet a mile.
Options include an ammo magazine that carries up to 30 rounds. Adam Lanza had several in his possession, making it easy for him to kill 26 people in about 10 minutes. The rifle's ability to fire multiple rounds quickly explains why each of the victims had from three to 11 gun shot wounds, according to the state medical examiner.
There's one other detail the medical examiner noted: The shooter used 223-caliber ammunition designed to expend its energy in the victim's tissue and stay inside the body to inflict the maximum amount of damage. This may explain why parents were asked to identify their children from pictures instead of viewing the corpses.
These assault rifles and large magazines were illegal until the assault rifle ban was allowed to expire in 2004 by President George W. Bush and the Republican Congress, not unexpected since they've been in the hip pocket of the National Rifle Association for decades.
But the Democrats are hardly innocent in this intolerable lack of good sense. They didn't try to resurrect the ban when the Democrats controlled the White House and both houses of Congress from 2009 to 2011 and just last year shelved proposals to tighten up the federal background check on gun purchasers.
Now President Barack Obama is behind a crackdown on these weapons of war. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants to renew the assault weapons ban, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg is pushing to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. When they start bloviating about the Connecticut tragedy, you might ask them where they were four years ago.
While we're in the mood, we should close the loop hole that allows 40 percent of gun sales to take place through private parties without a background check and crack down on states that don't maintain an adequate database of criminal offenders.
Despite the brave talk now, none of this will be easy — you can bet the NRA won't let its sock puppets in Congress sit this one out. There are also several related issues that need to be addressed, included the easy acceptance of violence in our culture and the way we deal with mental illness.
But the four measures mentioned here are concrete steps that can be taken now. Rep. John Yarmouth, a Republican turned Democrat from Kentucky, could have been speaking for all of us when he said recently:
"I have been largely silent on the issue of gun violence over the past six years, and I am now as sorry for that as I am for what happened to the families who lost so much in this most recent — but sadly not isolated — tragedy."
George Boardman lives in Lake of the Pines.