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“Only For The Terrorists Among Us”: Assault Weapons Are Weapons Of Mass Destruction And Should Be Banned

The tragedy in Connecticut forces America to confront a simple question: Why should we allow easy access to a weapon of mass destruction just because it could conceivably be referred to as a “gun”?

I count myself among the many Americans who at various points in their lives have owned and used long guns — hunting rifles and shotguns — for hunting and target shooting. No one I know in politics seriously proposes that ordinary Americans be denied the right to own those kinds of weapons.

But guns used for hunting have nothing in common with assault weapons like the ones that were used last week in the mass murder of 20 first-graders — except the fact that they are referred to “guns.”

Rapid-fire assault weapons with large clips of ammunition have only one purpose: the mass slaughter of large numbers of human beings. They were designed for use by the military to achieve that mission in combat — and that mission alone.

No one argues that other combat weapons like rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s) or Stinger Missiles should be widely available to anyone at a local gun shop. Why in the world should we allow pretty much anyone to have easy access to assault weapons?

Every politician in America will tell you they will move heaven and earth to prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the hands of terrorists. Yet we have allowed the ban on this particular weapon of mass destruction to expire. As a result, a terrorist named Adam Lanza was able to have easy access to the assault weapons he used to kill scores of children in minutes.

Let’s be clear, Adam Lanza was a terrorist just as surely as he would have been if we were motivated by an extreme jihadist ideology. It makes no difference to those children or to their grieving families whether their loved ones were killed by someone who was mentally deranged or by someone who believed that by killing children he was helping to destroying the great Satan.

When an individual is willing — or perhaps eager — to die making a big “statement” by killing many of his fellow human beings, it doesn’t matter what their motivation is. It does matter whether they have easy access to the weapons that make mass murder possible.

And after last week, can anyone seriously question whether assault weapons are in fact weapons of mass destruction? If Lanza had conventional guns — or like a man in China who recently went berserk, he only had knives — he would not have been physically capable of killing so many people in a few short minutes.

Of course you hear people say — oh, a car or an airliner can be turned into a weapon of mass destruction — many things can become weapons of mass destruction. And there is no question after 9/11 that we know that this is true. But cars and airliners have to be converted from their primary use in order to become instruments of mass death. It takes an elaborate plot and many actors to take over an airliner and it isn’t easy to methodically kill 27 people with a car.

More important, assault weapons have no redeeming social value or alternative use whatsoever. The only reason to purchase an assault weapon, instead of a long gun used for target practice or hunting, is to kill and maim large numbers of human beings.

And it is not the case that if assault weapons were banned ordinary people would get them anyway. We certainly don’t take that attitude with nuclear weapons or dirty bombs. We make it very hard for a terrorist to get nuclear weapons or dirty bomb. It used to be hard to get assault weapons.

When the former President of Mexico visited the United States some time ago to discuss the drug-fueled violence on the Mexican border, he pointed out that the end of the assault weapons ban in the U.S. had resulted in an explosion of smuggling of assault weapons from the United States to Mexico. Weapons that were previously unavailable in large numbers, became plentiful. He begged the United States to re-impose the assault weapons ban.

Allowing easy access to assault weapons guarantees that terrorists, criminals and mentally unstable people will use them to commit future acts of mass murder — it’s that simple. There are seven billion people on the planet. Try as we may, we are not going to prevent some of those seven billion people from becoming terrorists, criminals or mentally unstable. Why make it easy for them to do harm to their fellow human beings by giving them easy access to a weapon of mass destruction?

Since this tragedy, there have been calls for greater restrictions and background checks on those who can buy guns — and there should be. But from all accounts, the weapons used in the Connecticut murders were purchased legally by the shooter’s mother — who herself appeared to be perfectly sane right up to the moment that Lanza used those same weapons to end her life.

The NRA will no doubt repeat its mantra about the “slippery slope.” “If we ban assault weapons, shotguns will be next,” they say. Really? By banning anyone from buying Stinger Missiles that are used to shoot down airplanes do we make it more likely that the government will one day prevent people from hunting ducks?

The simple fact is that no right is absolute because rights come into conflict with each other. Your free speech does not give you the right to cry “fire” in a crowded theater.

Is the NRA’s concern that banning assault weapons will put us on a “slippery slope” more important than the lives of those 20 first graders? Should it really take precedence over the fact that today in Newtown, Connecticut there are 20 families with holiday presents on a closet shelf, that were purchased for an excited six-year-old who will never open them?

Are the NRA’s fears more important than the terror faced by children in the Sandy Hook Elementary school last week?

Does the right to own an assault weapon take precedence over the right of those parents to see their children grow up, and graduate from college, and stand at the alter to be married, and have children of their own?

The bottom line is that there is no reason why weapons of mass destruction of any sort – chemical weapons, biological weapons, RPG’s, improvised explosive devices (IED’s), missiles, dirty bombs, nuclear devices, or assault weapons — should be easily accessible. For 10 years there was a ban on the production, ownership and use of assault weapons in the United States until Congress and the Bush Administration allowed it to lapse when it sunset and came up for reauthorization in 2004.

A serious response to the tragedy in Connecticut requires that Congress act to reinstate the assault weapons ban before the children of other families fall victim to the fantasies of some other mentally unbalanced individual — or the ideology of a terrorist who has been empowered by our failure to act.

By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post Blog, December 17, 2012

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Guns | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Guns And Babies”: What Newtown Does Not Teach Us

I began the week of December 10th with the horrible news that one of my former students, Brandon Woodward, had been gunned down on the streets of New York City. I ended the week with even more unbelievable news: that 20 children, six teachers and their shooter were dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Between those deaths, another shooter killed two people at an Oregon shopping mall.

There are no words for the horror parents must have felt yesterday, especially parents in Newtown. To bury a child is the worst fate imaginable. To bury anyone you love is an awful, soul-gutting task. When that death comes at the point of a gun, the last thing grieving parents and the loved ones of the deceased need to hear are clergy members and religious pundits prattling on with a false moral equivalence that goes like this: if God and guns are allowed back in our schools, tragedies like Sandy Hook will not happen again.

Who would say such a thing? For a start, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, Fox News’ Mike Huckabee and David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s The Brody File. Since yesterday’s awful news, each has claimed that God’s absence from our schools and the lack of concealed gun carry permits for teachers and school administrators allowed this carnage to happen. I am sure there will be others who decide to preach sermons along this line from pulpits around the country this Sunday.

In their quest to give pat answers, these men and others once again blame tragedy on what they perceive as the absence of God in public places. In their attempt to provide a remedy, they suggest that the very tool of destruction used in this massacre—guns—be allowed into the classroom alongside God, as a deterrent (no matter that the gunman’s weapons belonged to his mother). Their logical fallacy is stunning, and reveals the absoluteness of their punitive—and puny—belief.

One of my Twitter followers, Brent Sirota, said it best: “The louder and more vituperative the theism invoked at any given social or political problem, the emptier the conservative prescription.”

If there was any moment where God must have been present, it would have been in a classroom of young children, some just five years old, who were probably praying and crying for their parents as a disturbed young man took aim at them with a gun.

The time has come to confront, without reservation and unceasingly, the type of theological evil that emerges from figures like Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer—who after yesterday seem little different from the Westboro hatemongers. It is not about “reaping and sowing,” David Brody. The nation reaped this whirlwind not because of God’s absence, but because of an absence of limits on the power of the NRA and its particular interpretation of the Second Amendment. That group and its ideology have become an omnipotent force that holds a gun, fixing its sights on all of us as a nation. God is not lobbying on Capitol Hill about guns. God isn’t making state laws more lenient for concealed carry. God is not selling assault rifles at gun shows without so much as a three-day waiting period.

God did not give David an AK-47 to tackle Goliath, but a slingshot.

Listen up, evangelicals and conservative Christians. You can’t say that because God isn’t in a classroom, that we as a nation have reaped what we’ve sown—and then ask for guns in schools at the same time. Those children and teachers were innocent. You can’t compare this to abortion. It’s a false equivalence. If you continue to allow these theological hacks to speak for you, or if you as clergy repeat this asinine excuse to your congregation this Advent season, you lead your people astray, and you have blood on your hands as well.

I don’t currently identify as an evangelical, but in my time at Fuller Seminary I learned some great theology from people I still respect. In one of my classes, theology professor Ray Anderson said something very simple yet very profound that I have carried with me since. Even in the most horrible moments, he said, God is present with us. God is not absent. It’s a statement that flies in the face of the kind of theology that Mike Huckabee is peddling: a presupposition that we must give homage to a god that wants fake sacrifices and piety to appease his divine wrath. What Anderson taught me is the kind of belief that can sustain people through terrible tragedies.

In times like these, I find more in common with the atheist, agnostic, and the seeker. They either don’t care for god in any shape, name or form, or have the good sense to leave god out if it.

People, mentally ill or not, are responsible for their actions. Actions have consequences. We must be willing to address the fact that as a nation we are sick. We are hopped up, angry, ready for a fight every day, and we live in an apocalyptic aura of fear that makes all of us uneasy and unstable. Our moral core, our American Exceptionalism is not about freedom—it’s about violence. We’ve anointed the Second Amendment as sacred scripture and a charter of freedom: the right to bear arms, so that we can kill. We are a vicious, violent nation. And these days it’s our violence most of all that makes us stand out.

Americans must begin to assess our humanity, and view each other as human beings, rather than target practice. Violence and promoting a violent Christian God does not solve the nation’s problems. It creates more of them.

For those like Brody, Huckabee, and Fischer who see tragedy and want to prescribe more violence and proclaim the glories of a violent, punitive God, please do us all a favor: shut up. Let us grieve these children and their teachers’ lost lives in peace. Now is not the time for your brutal apocalyptic beliefs.


By: Anthea Butler, Religion Dispatches, December 15, 2012

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Sould All Be Angry”: Now Is The Time For Meaningful Gun Control

We should mourn, but we should be angry.

The horror in Newtown, Conn., should shake us out of the cowardice, the fear, the evasion and the opportunism that prevents our political system from acting to curb gun violence.

How often must we note that no other developed country has such massacres on a regular basis because no other comparable nation allows such easy access to guns? And on no subject other than ungodly episodes involving guns are those who respond logically by demanding solutions accused of “politicizing tragedy.”

It is time to insist that such craven propaganda will no longer be taken seriously. If Congress does not act this time, we can deem it as totally bought and paid for by the representatives of gun manufacturers, gun dealers and their very well-compensated apologists. A former high Obama administration official once made this comment to me: “If progressives are so worked up about how Washington is controlled by the banks and Wall Street, why aren’t they just as worked up by the power of the gun lobby?” It is a good question.

There was a different quality to President Obama’s response to this mass shooting, both initially and during his Sunday pilgrimage to offer comfort to the families of victims. I think I know why. It is not just that 20 young children were killed, although that would be enough.

For some months now, there have been rumblings from the administration that Obama has been unhappy with his own policy passivity in responding to the earlier mass shootings and was prepared in his second term to propose tough steps to deal with our national madness on firearms.

He spoke in Newtown in solidarity with the suffering, but pointed toward action. No, he said, we are not “doing enough to keep our children, all our children, safe.” He added: “We will have to change.”

And his initial statement Friday pointed to his exasperation. “We have been through this too many times,” he said, reciting our national litany of unspeakable events, and insisting that we will “have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Regardless of the politics.” That is what it will take. This phrase comes easily to a president who just fought his last election, but he and the rest of us must change the politics of guns for those who will face the voters again. We cannot just be sad. We must be angry. We cannot just shake our heads. We must wield our votes and declare that curbing gun violence is one issue among many, but a paramount concern for our country.

And we will have to avoid the paralysis induced by those who cast every mass shooting as the work of one deranged individual and never ever the result of flawed policies. We must beware of those who invoke complexity not to further understanding but to encourage passivity and resignation.

Yes, every social problem and every act of violence have complicated roots. But we already know that it is far too easy to obtain guns in the United States and far too difficult to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. And we already know that weapons are available that should not even be sold.

What, minimally, might “meaningful action” look like? We should begin with: bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons; requiring background checks for all gun purchases; stricter laws to make sure that gun owners follow safety procedures; new steps to make it easier to trace guns used in crimes; and vastly ramped-up data collection and research on what works to prevent gun violence, both of which are regularly blocked by the gun lobby.

After mass shootings, it’s always said we must improve our mental-health system and the treatment of those who may be prone to violence. Of course we should. But this noble sentiment is too often part of a strategy to evade any action on guns themselves.

Not this time. Americans are not the only people in the world who confront mental-health problems. We are the only country that regularly experiences horrors of this sort. The difference, as the writer Garry Wills has said, is that the United States treats the gun as a secular god, immune to rational analysis and human intervention.

We must depose the false deity. We must act now to curb gun violence, or we never will.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 16, 2012

December 17, 2012 Posted by | Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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