Do the Right Thing

As the country continues to cope with last week’s horrific theatre shooting, the topic of gun control returns to the public spotlight.

Social media networks are incredible.  Sites like Facebook and Twitter offer an outlet for people to voice their opinions on a wide-range of subjects in real time. If your feed read anything similar to mine, your wall was likely covered in posts by a combination of newly minted gun lobbyists and stricter gun control advocates.

Strangely, no group reacted more strongly than gun enthusiasts.  Since this administration took office, it has come under attack from conservatives with such (unsubstantiated) claims that our Second Amendment rights were in jeopardy.

We know that Obama has not only not limited or attacked gun rights for law-abiding citizens; he has extended them.  In 2009, the President signed in legislation that allows gun owners to carry concealed weapons in national parks.
The question now is: would tougher legislation have prevented last Friday’s tragedy?

One of the weapons used was the AR-15 assault rifle, which Newt Gingrich mistakenly claimed was illegal during a Friday appearance on CNN.  James Holmes, the man identified as the shooter, legally bought the rifle and three other weapons, along with 6000 rounds of ammunition, in just 60 days.

You would think such a large amount of ammunition and weapons sales in a small amount of time would spark somebody’s interest, but currently Colorado does not require a form of registration regarding firearm sales.  Hopefully, this incident will see that change.

The AR-15 is a deadly weapon that can carry a 100 round magazine and fire off up to 60 rounds a minute.  One reason this tragedy does not have a higher death toll is that Holmes’ assault rifle jammed during the attack.

It is important to note that the AR-15 assault rifle would have been banned under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which expired in 2004.

The legally purchased weapon used in last year’s Arizona shooting that saw the deaths of six people and injured thirteen, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, would also have fallen under the 1994 weapons ban.

The weapons ban may not have prevented these two murderous acts, but it could have prevented further loss of life and injury by forcing the shooters to purchase weapons that held smaller amounts of ammunition.  The weapon used by Arizona shooter Jared Loughner held up to two to three times a normal magazine capacity.

Supporters of the modern-day Republican Party may not remember (or are unaware) of former President Ronald Reagan’s support of the 1994 assault weapons ban.  Reagan, along with former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, wrote a letter that was published in the Boston Globe encouraging Congress to ban the weapons.

In 2004, the year the ban expired, many law enforcement groups came out in support of the Act’s extension, including the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the 318,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Regardless of Reagan’s support, then-President Clinton’s signing of the Act was partly credited for the Democratic loss of the House and the Senate during the 1994 mid-term elections, which is why we will likely not see legislation taken under serious consideration this election year.

Since 2004, the NRA has become an even more powerful force in Washington.  The organization has argued against a recent rule that now requires Southwest border-states to report the sales of two or more semi-automatic rifles larger than .22 caliber. If a version of this policy were put into effect on a nationwide level, awareness could have been raised sooner on the Colorado incident while at the same time not prohibiting a citizen’s choice to buy firearms.

My favorite legislation on this matter that was left to languish by committee is the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act, which included a ban on the sale of firearms to people on the FBI’s terror watch list.  The NRA opposed the Act.

A 2011 report read that between 2004 and 2010 “individuals on the terrorist watch list were involved in firearm or explosives background checks 1,228 times; 1,119 of these transactions were allowed to proceed because no prohibiting information was found.”

Last year, the NRA spent $2,905,000 in lobbying expenditures.  Let’s take a look at the top 5 recipients of the NRA’s kindness for 2012 thus far:

  • Steve Fincher (R-TN)                                                $9,900
  • Rick Berg (R-ND)                                                      $7,450
  • Eric Cantor (R-VA)                                                     $7,450
  • Raul Labrador (R-ID)                                                 $6,950
  • John Carter (R-TX)                                                    $5,950

This latest tragedy is going to bring the issue of gun control front and center, just as it did after Columbine, Virginia Tech and the Arizona shootings.  How many more times do we have to have a discussion before we decide to do something?

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