In the wake of Sandy Hook

For Your Consideration

Alan CheahJanuary 2, 2013 

What will the New Year bring? How many atrocities are in store for us? How tragic do they have to be before the people are willing to stand up to the National Rifle Association? What will it take to include guns and ammunition in the debate about gun violence? Like all significant changes of heart it usually requires a personal epiphany. In what form will that take -- a personal tragedy? It would be interesting to know if anyone distantly or closely related to the victims at Sandy Hook have had their epiphany.

Every time something like this happens, the old playbook gets dusted off and we have to re-litigate it as though it has not already been exhausted. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." "If there weren't guns, people would use something else." People have killed with hammers; do you want to outlaw hammers? Cars kill people; do you want to outlaw cars? Most of us know these are ludicrous arguments but there is a segment of our population that believes it credible.

It's no big secret that people kill people. We can't stop the killing but we sure can minimize it. For cars, it means reducing the speed limit which has saved thousands of lives. For hammers, nothing need be done because of the rarity of death by hammer. For guns, its equivalent of 55 m.p.h. is limiting the capacity of clips to six rounds instead of the 30 to 100 rounds on the market now.

In 1994 we enacted the Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). A 2004 study, "On Target: The Impact of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapon Act," revealed that before the ban between 1990 -- 1994, 4.82% of the 1.4 million guns involved in a crime were assault weapons. During the ban, 1.61% was attributable to assault weapons. The Assault Weapons Ban expired in 2004 and wasn't renewed despite broad public support.

The NRA has long used the slippery slope argument to scare its members and supporters into believing their guns will be taken away if an assault weapons ban is put in place. Responsible and informed gun owners know this simply isn't true. If that were the case their guns would have long been taken away during the 10 years of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban law.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne Lapierre's answer, arm more people. LaPierre's latest gem is "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Well, there were lots of good guys with guns at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Fort Hood.

The good guys didn't stop the bad guy. Let's face it. LaPierre's foremost interest is to sell guns and ammo, not the safety of Americans. Would LaPierre be selling his soul to the devil if there wasn't so much money in the legal and illegal trafficking of guns?

LaPierre called for a comprehensive national database of crazies but won't call for the obvious -- a national database of gun owners and a national record-keeping of firearm and ammunition purchases. No such databases exist. Most states don't even require a license to buy or keep a gun. Can such a database prevent future massacres? Search "How Big Data Can Solve America's Gun Problem."

LaPierre's insincerity is so transparent you have to be blind not to see it. On Meet the Press, LaPierre says eliminating 30 round clips won't help. The shooter can still get off 30 rounds by reloading six round clips five times.

If LaPierre was faced with these two options, would he still think it makes no difference?

We can't ignore the contribution of entertainment, poverty, and mental illness to gun violence but why are we letting ourselves be bullied into ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room. That would be to ban high capacity clips. Re-authorize an assault weapons ban. Create a national database of gun owners and ammo purchases.

So what is it going to take to get this done -- having a member of our own family shot?

Some references:

How Congress Screwed Up And Let The Assault Weapons Ban Expire: businessinsider.com/why-did-the-assault-weapons-ban-expire-2012-12#ixzz2GPVgT4hj.

How Big Data Can Solve America's Gun Problem: theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/12/how-big-data-can-solve-americas-gun-problem/266633#.

A Timeline of Mass Shootings in the US since Columbine By Aviva Shen on Dec 14, 2012. thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/14/1337221/a-timeline-of-mass-shootings-in-the-us-since-columbine/?mobile=nc.

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