In reaction to the shooting rampage in Tucson, which injured 14 and claimed the lives of six persons - including 9-year-old Christina Taylor Green - I briefly entertained the idea of chartering a new 12-step program, Stamp Out Gun Violence Anonymous.
In Step 1, we admitted we were powerless over politicians and special interests who continue to obstruct any effective measures to stop the carnage; that the status quo had become untenable.
In Step 2, we came to hope that someone, somewhere, could restore some semblance of sanity, while acknowledging that chances were slim.
The attempt on the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, affected me personally because I had virtually “met” her via the Internet. Not long after discovering her campaign website, I joined the multitude in 2006 who contributed to her successful bid for the House. My impressions of her as being uncommonly affable, appealing and astute have since been validated in spades.
In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, the FBI reported that gun sales spiked in Arizona and elsewhere, especially for the type of 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol used by the gunman. Closer to home, I happened to hear ads for an upcoming gun show aired at unusually frequent intervals on a Seattle talk radio station.
One explanation for this disturbing trend is that some folks worry that the Obama administration will use the tragedy as a pretext to restrict guns. If that’s the case, they have nothing to fear anytime soon. The arm of the most powerful lobby in D.C., the National Rifle Association, has historically resisted any restrictions on types of guns. Until 9/11, it had even supported the right to own the type of plastic gun which could pass through airport security undetected.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, have pledged to introduce bills this month which would restore a Clinton-era ban on gun magazines that feed more than 10 rounds at a time. Because that ban expired in 2004 and was never reinstated, the perpetrator in Tucson was able to legally purchase a magazine that permitted 33 rounds without having to reload. Ditto for the Virginia Tech shooter, who killed 32 persons in 2007 using the same model.
While I would agree that the Lautenberg-McCarthy proposal is marginally better than nothing, I take little comfort in the knowledge that the next deranged gunman would still be able get off 11 lethal rounds per semi-automatic handgun. Using two handguns, Maurice Clemmons fired just seven shots in slaying four police officers in the Lakewood coffee shop.
In yet another example of the type of judicial activism conservatives constantly decry, for the first time in the history of the republic the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in District of Columbia v. Heller that the right to bear arms extends to private ownership of handguns. That says to me that Band-Aid solutions are no longer viable.
I would encourage like-minded people to join me in asking their members of Congress to come up with some legislation with teeth. My version of “Christina’s Bill” would impose an immediate moratorium on the sale, manufacture, distribution or importation of any types of assault weapons or accessory devices. As for handguns, a 12-month waiting period, background check and psychiatric certification would be required to transact any purchase. Let the courts decide whether the Second Amendment can be stretched to include the right to profiteer.
As John Lennon, who 30 years ago lost his life to an insane man with a handgun so prophetically put it, “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”
Imagine “Christina’s Bill” becoming the law of the land.
David Rupel, retired systems consultant from the state of Washington, is a member of The Olympian’s Board of Contributors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.