Quick quiz and be honest with yourself: who is Adam Lanza?
If you don’t know the answer to that question you are part of a growing number of Americans who are apparently moving past the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. In the immediate wake of the December mass killing we were, once again, enraged – This time we were determined to make a series of changes, by some estimates more than 70% of Americans polled were in favor of sweeping gun control legislation including bans of certain so-called assault weapons. Seemed appropriate given the horror of Sandy Hook. How could anyone look into the terrified eyes of a six year old and pull a trigger? It was so personally troubling to me that I became nauseated at the thought of Lanza’s inhumanity. How could we sit idly by in the face of yet another shooting by a deranged lunatic? Enough was enough; social media sites were on the job as Americans posted the names of the fallen, we watched tearfully as babies were laid to rest. Adam Lanza was just the latest in a shockingly long line of deranged individuals who were able to arm themselves in a macabre game of one-upsmanship.
Adam Lanza left his home on December 14, 2012, carrying ten 30-round clips for his semiautomatic Bushmaster .223 caliber model XM15 rifle, as well as rounds for the two handguns and a shotgun he took with him to an elementary school where he murdered 26 people including twenty children. He left 1600 rounds of ammo behind. Despite the scope of this latest massacre, and in the less than four months since that day, Americans and the frauds who comprise the United States Congress are apparently moving on – no change in our standard operating procedure, no gun control, no legislation requiring background checks – no sir not today or anytime soon.
The NRA knew we’d forget those poor kids and teachers, and they started a campaign to facilitate that process, which I liken to the leafleting done in WWII. The internet was bombarded with posts about how “Guns don’t Kill People” and “The Only Way To Stop A Bad Guy With A Gun Is A Good Guy With A Gun”. They called for arming our schools and walling them off. Hell, given that the NRA is a shill for the gun industry why would we expect them to pass up the opportunity to sell guns to school districts nationwide. There’s no way to bring those kids back so why not make the most of the situation. We were bombarded with facts and figures touting the “fact” that gun manufacturers contribute more than $30 billion to our economy every year.
The question is why would the NRA take such an outrageous position in the days following the Sandy Hook Massacre? The answer is really quite simple: we are, as a nation, incapable of staying on point for more than a few months regardless of the issue. The NRA knew that gun control fever would break and that we would be back to business as usual in no time. The NRA has seen this before.
A CBS News survey released earlier this week indicated a 10-point drop in the public backing of stricter gun laws, from 57% immediately after the Newtown Massacre to 47% today. Those poll numbers were essentially mirrored as poll after poll show slipping support for sweeping gun control legislation. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action was quick to point to that CBS News survey in a March 26 press release. So what gives? Are we intellectual buffoons who find comfort in the “well it wasn’t my kid’s school” way of thinking? How can we begin to move past this tragedy without doing something, anything to keep guns away from deranged people? How can we forget those kids? A quick glance back will tell you that we have always been capable of amnesia when some deranged animal walks onto a school campus:
- In 1988 19-year-old James Wilson went on a shooting rampage at the Greenwood, S.C., Elementary School and killed two 8-year-old girls and wounded seven others.
- That same year, 31-year-old Laurie Dann walked into a second-grade classroom in Winnetka, Ill., and began shooting. One child was killed and six wounded.
• Kip Kinkel, a 15-year-old of Springfield, Ore., in 1998 murdered his parents and proceeded to his high school where he went on a rampage killing two students and wounding 22 others.
- Patrick Purdy, 25, in 1989 opened fire on a school yard filled with children in Stockton, Calif. Five kids were killed and 30 wounded.
- Steve Lieth of Chelsea, Mich., in 1993 walked into a school meeting and shot and killed the school superintendent, wounding two others.
- In 1997 Michael Carneal, 14, opened fire on students at a high school prayer meeting in Heath High in West Paducah, Ky. Three died and one was paralyzed.
- In 1998, 11-year-old Andrew Golden and 14-year-old Mitchell Johnson apparently faked a fire alarm at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Ark., and shot at students as they left the building. Four students and a teacher were killed.
- April 20, 1999, Eric Harris, 18, and Dylan Klebold, 17, shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher at the Columbine High School and wounded 24 others.
- In 2007 Steven Kazmierczak killed 5 students and then himself at University of Illinois, DeKalb Campus. The AP reported that Kazmierczak’s parents had placed him in a Chicago psychiatric treatment center after high school.
- On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho walked onto the campus at Virginia Tech where he murdered 32 and injured several more.
The most striking aspect of these shootings is the fact that nearly every shooter was or had been in psychiatric care, or taking drugs for psychological diagnoses. How about this for a compromise Mr. NRA Spokesweasel, let’s continue to sell guns to kids or irresponsible parents. Let’s just try not to sell them to the kid with a paranoid schizophrenia with an automatically refillable lithium prescription!
Let’s be clear about a few facts: Good people, lots of really good, law abiding people, responsibly own guns. These are the folks who you’ll never hear about. They hunt, they work with guns as police officers, armed security officers or they are people who choose to protect themselves with guns. The problem of gun control is due in large part to the fact that the overwhelming majority of gun owners are good people who will never do any harm with a gun unless you happen to be a quail. I am not calling for the elimination of guns, guns are here to stay for the foreseeable future but they must be regulated so that felons and the mentally ill do not have access to them. Our friend Mr. NRA Spokesweasel disagrees; background checks and gun registration do not work so they have called for the elimination of both proposals. They see any regulation as an infringement of Second Amendment.
We should all, however, be confounded by this sense that our Second Amendment right is somehow sacrosanct to the point that it stands alone as the only right or privilege above some degree of societal control. The Second Amendment does not guarantee gun ownership free from governmental control, any more than the First Amendment allows unfettered free speech or the creation of a religion that has human sacrifice as one of its basic precepts. I may have a right to buy liquor – but no right to give it to a child. I have a right to drive a car (and before you scholars get too worked up, the right to drive is described by many courts as a “property right”) but I cannot drive too fast, too slow, and I must demonstrate proficiency behind the wheel before I can drive. I cannot drive while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. So please spare me all of the rubbish about how the Second Amendment is infringed if we, as a society, determine that convicted felons and the mentally unstable should not be allowed to purchase a dozen Glocks and a few thousand rounds of ammunition.
To be fair, the federal government has attempted gun control beginning in 1934. Today several laws are in place including the National Firearms Act (1934); the Gun Control Act of 1968; and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993). The problem is that these laws are essentially ignored or they can be legally worked around. It is possible to buy a “second hand” weapon which is brand spanking new at a gun show without any requirement of registration. We need a federal gun control bill that must be linked to federal aid to the states so that states will enforce the law. Remember how the feds managed to force the drinking age to 21? If your state chose to keep the drinking age below 21 your state lost federal funds – remarkable little tool to make the good ole boys in Alabama to get in line.
Here are my own proposals to limit the possibility of a repeat of Sandy Hook:
- All weapons and their entire component parts should be laser etched with serial numbers so that when these weapons or their parts turn up at a crime scene the original owner can be identified and, if appropriate, prosecuted.
- A national database should be established to identify convicted felons and those identified as having delineated mental illnesses.
- A national gun license should be created which would be required to own any firearm.
- Local police or sheriff’s offices should make the determination as to who is issued a gun license, after a background check.
- All convicted felons should immediately be banned from gun ownership for life.
- Persons who have been diagnosed with mental illness should be prohibited from gun ownership.
- All persons convicted of assaultive misdemeanor offenses including any form of domestic violence should lose their right to carry for ten years.
- No person under the age of 18 should be allowed to own or possess a weapon except when in the company of an adult who is licensed to carry.
- A gun owner who loses a gun by negligence or theft caused by negligence should face criminal prosecution, and civil liability to the victims of gun violence caused by that person’s weapon.
- The unlawful possession of any gun should be punished with minimum mandatory prison time.
So who wants to explain to me why a convicted felon or a mentally ill 16 year old should be walking around with a Bushmaster? I won’t forget those kids and I hope you won’t either.