OP-ED: Not surprisingly the Sunday morning airwaves were filled with the voices of those in favor of and in opposition to tightened gun control in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Voice after voice sought to pin blame on something for the senseless killing of 20 innocent children and the six adults who died trying to protect them. And once again, the something easiest to blame was the gun in the hands of Adam Lanza.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t wait for Meet the Press or Fox News Sunday to press his case for new gun laws. Just hours after the shooting spree, with parents still waiting to identify their lifeless preschoolers bodies, Bloomberg called on President Obama to lead the nation on gun control. Yesterday on Meet the Press he repeated his plea:
“What the president can do is, number one, through executive action, he can order his agencies to enforce the laws more aggressively. I think there’s something like 77,000 people who have been accused of lying when they have applied for a gun permit. We’ve only prosecuted 77 of them,” the mayor said.” The president can introduce legislation, even if it doesn’t get passed. The president campaigned back in 2008 on a bill that would prohibit assault weapons. We’ve got to really question whether military style weapons with big magazines belong in the streets of America in this day and age. Nobody questions the Second Amendment`s right to bear arms. But I don`t think the Founding Fathers had the idea that every man, woman, and child could carry an assault weapon.”
Bloomberg may or may not be right about the place of so-called assault weapons in American society. The problem is that the very definition of what constitutes an assault weapon is somewhat muddled in the current conversation. Automatic weapons are already severely regulated and there are strict gun laws on the books. The one thing the mayor had right was that enforcement of current laws would go a long way to making our streets safer.
Senator Dick Durbin appeared on Fox News Sunday with a call for a “quiet, calm reflection on the Second Amendment.” He asked, “Are there guns that really shouldn’t be sold across America? Military assault weapons such as the one involved in this horrific incident in Connecticut? Are there high ammunition clips, high capacity ammunition clips that have no value, whatsoever, when it comes to sporting and hunting and even self-defense? The person could buy body armor, take that body armor and use it to protect themselves as they kill innocent people. Can we have a thoughtful, calm, reflection on these things? And do it in the context of our Second Amendment? I think we need to.”
If I really believed what these people wanted was a quiet and reasoned discussion about assault weapons I would agree and encourage such a conversation. But it is hard to forget the words of then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel when he said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” And, it’s obvious that game is still in play in Washington.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said she would introduce a gun-control bill on the first day of the next Congress: “It will ban the sale, the transfer, the importation and the possession— not retroactively, but prospectively—of ‘assault weapons’ as well as high-capacity magazines.”
Durbin said he plans to hold a hearing on the same day on the constitutional question of the Second Amendment.
But perhaps it would be wise to also listen to Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas who noted, “Every mass killing of more than three people in recent history has been in a place where guns were prohibited.” And he’s right: both Columbine and Sandy Hook are located in states with strict gun control laws.
There will be time for discussions about such things and no doubt the drum beat for tighter gun control will increase. But in the meantime, mothers and fathers today are grieving the loss of their precious little ones. And the observation of Bill Bennett on Meet the Press still echoes in my mind.
Bennett said: “I’m not so sure I wouldn’t want one person in a school armed, ready for this kind of thing. The principal lunged at this guy. The school psychologist lunged at the guy. It has to be someone who’s trained. It has to be someone who is responsible. But, my God, if you can prevent this kind of thing, I think you ought to.”
Representative Gohmert added to that sentiment when he said, “I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up, so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands, but she takes him out, takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids.”
In the end, the only person who had a gun of any kind at Sandy Hook that day was Adam Lanza. That fact alone, made what happened inevitable.