Time to talk about gun laws

Time to talk about gun laws

Fair warning: If you count yourself among Virginia’s (quite sizable) contingent of second amendment absolutists, you should stop reading now. As we sit here, furiously writing yet another post-gun massacre column, we’re in no mood to tiptoe around the delicate sensibilities of this country’s increasingly unhinged firearm fanatics.

In the wake of the horrible slaughter of 20 terrified, defenseless children and seven adults in Newtown, Connecticut, we’re done pretending that America’s proponents of unfettered access to military hardware for all citizens are anything but accessories to mass murder. This fetishization of large caliber, high-capacity weaponry is, in our humble opinion, an ongoing aberration in the American psyche, and one that basically guarantees that thousands of innocent souls will continue to be lost to madmen with easy access to the tools of death.

We realize that this is not a popular opinion. Even after suffering through the largest mass shooting since April 16, 2007—when a pathetic, self-hating slug named Seung-Hui Cho murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech—the asinine NRA fantasy that arming everyone in sight would magically solve the problem remains disturbingly prevalent. (In fact, according to the Virginia State Police, the number of criminal background checks requested by prospective gun owners shot to an all-time high the day after the Newtown massacre.)

Even our lustrously helmet-haired Governor Bob McDonnell got in on the action, musing during his monthly appearance on radio station WTOP that, if a Sandy Hook school official had been “trained and chose to have a weapon,” then there would have been “an opportunity to stop aggressors coming into the schools.”

This is Rush Limbaugh-level idiocy, and demonstrates a startling lack of empathy and common sense on the part of the Governor. (Which is exactly why the NRA later proposed its own moronic armed-guards-in-schools solution.) As the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has astutely pointed out, James Brady was standing a foot away from the most powerful man in the world, surrounded by the most highly trained protective force ever created, and he still got shot in the head. In what possible world is an elementary school principle with a .38 Special going to stop a truly determined killer with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammo?

What makes McDonnell’s sorry performance so much more galling (to us, anyway) is the fact that Virginia is a huge part of the gun violence problem. As a centrally located East Coast state with intentionally porous gun laws that allow the unrestricted sale of firearms at gun shows without a background check, we put more deadly weapons into the hands of shady characters than almost any other state in the union.

In a sane world, the stomach-churning mental image of a lunatic repeatedly firing .223 caliber bullets into the helpless, writhing bodies of children would make us finally stop, realize the folly of our current gun laws, and take immediate corrective action.

But we do not live in a sane world. And, as much as it pains us to say it, nothing will really change. Twenty tiny coffins will be lowered into the ground, politicians will fulminate and fight, a scrap of watered-down, ineffective legislation may or may not pass, and we’ll all sit around, waiting for the next trigger-happy loner to destroy yet another community, as we continue to weep for the sick weakness of our collective will.

  • My Opinion

    Okay, I’ll take the bait. First, EVERYBODY feels terrible about the tragedy. EVERYBODY knows he was disturbed. EVERYBODY wants a solution that works. But, EVERYBODY doesn’t agree that YOUR solution will work. So, to have a serious debate, we must first leave the emotion and the pejoratives out (e.g. asinine, helmet hair, etc.). Unless, your intent is only to gin up the base.

    A successful solution is one that is realistic and proportional to the problem we are trying to solve.

    We are a huge country with over 300 million persons. Everyone admits that killings like this
    cannot be completely eradicated as there are always substitute means for a determined psycho. At Columbine, Klebold and Harris had tanks of propane gas (that fortunately did not blow up as intended). The Uni-Bomber didn’t use guns. Al-Qaeda used airplanes. In past, we have banned alcohol and drugs. How well has that worked? Only the law abiding are inclined to follow the law.

    I question whether violent movies or video games are to blame as asserted by many, including the NRA. Millions of persons engage in these forms of entertainment every day. If these were the cause, there would be many more mass killings. The state of our mental health programs is also assailed by many. However, the millions of poorly treated mental health cases walking around are not engaging in mass killings. Don’t you think the school administrators each of our 100,000 US schools could point to 4-5 students that are capable of this atrocity? But these hundreds of thousands of kids don’t do it. The percentages make it very hard to pick out real one. This rarity also makes it expensive to place arm guards at every school when the chances are so remote. Unless, these armed guards serve other useful roles at the school. By the way, I think we can agree that the “Gun-Free” slogan for schools was illusory.

    Are we realistic in trying to craft a solution to stop one or two persons in 300 million? That’s a defect rate of 0.00000067% . I don’t think so. But it makes a good campaign issue (and fund raiser).

    Regarding overall gun violence, I understand that nearly 9,000 victim die each year from hand guns (way, way more than assault weapon deaths). Ironically, this is similar to the number of alcohol related deaths on our highways. Why no general call for a ban on alcohol? Because most all of us consume it and are disincline to ban something we use (and use responsibly).

    In the end, both alcohol and gun deaths are the same. It’s a tragedy for everyone.

  • http://www.salem-news.com/ Max Frisson

    Small point I guess but the guns being discussed are all relatively small caliber guns. a .223 round is less than a quarter of an inch. These modern rifles are not military hardware or even really that similar other than a superficial visual similarity.

    Last night I listened to a very reasonable and effective idea for stopping mass shootings by crazies from Dan Carlin who has a political commentary podcast; Common Sense. http://www.dancarlin.com/
    His suggestion is a two-pronged action plan dealing not with the device but the operator. Gun violence overall is down. It is not increasing except in the suicide category, it’s lower than in the Eighties when there were fewer laws, fewer guns and fewer people, lower than the Nineties when you had an assault weapon ban so overall gun violence is falling already. But since 1982 there has been an increase in these psycho nut job mass killings and the issue there is not the device, it is that there is no way to commit mentally ill people easily to institutions and no mental healthcare system for most Americas. So let’s get on the source of the shooters not the tool. You can replace a tool with a substituent but crazy doesn’t just cure itself. Stronger commitment laws coupled with real access to doctors and confinement facilities and you remove the threat more effectively than a specious gun ban done becasue you don’t like how an inanimate object looks. A secondary benefit would be the dramatic reduction in homelessness where as much as 80% of urban homeless and mentally ill.

    After dealing with the mental health issue take on the criminal use of guns and possession by those already prohibited by current laws to have firearms. Make use of a gun in the commission of a felony an automatic 25 year sentence, make possession by a felon 25 years. Free the marijuana prisoners and load up the jails with real criminals.
    Yes we do need a shift in how we look at guns in America but banning something that is not the cause won’t do anything and when the assault weapon and magazine ban does nothing we all know they will be back for semi-auto pistols and pump shotgun or maybe all handguns. I don’t want to live in an America where the action of confiscation would even be considered and Feinstein, Cumo and others have said they would do that if they could.

    The NRA needs to lead on this, just like they did in 1934 when America’s first gun laws were written. When MADD wanted to stop drunk driving they didn’t demonize the car or the booze, they went after the action. We need to do the same.

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