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“If Sandy Hook Is ‘Bearable’, What Is Not?”: Congress Trembling To The Call Of The NRA

You frequently find fortune cookie aphorisms, yes, but it’s not often that you find searing insight within Twitter’s 140-character confines. Which is why a June tweet from one Dan Hodges — his profile describes him as a British political commentator — stood out.

“In retrospect,” wrote Hodges, “Sandy Hook marked the end of the U.S. gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

You may cringe to hear the nation’s response to the December 2012 massacre of 20 young children — six adults also died — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, described in that fashion, but you can’t deny the brutal truth of the observation.

After Sandy Hook, President Obama called for new legislative initiatives, saying, “Surely we can do better than this.” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said, “We need action.” Rep. John Larson said, “Politics be damned.” Parents of one victim walked the halls of Congress carrying pictures of their dead son and beseeching lawmakers to look, even as polls showed nearly 60 percent of Americans wanted stronger gun laws.

And nothing happened. In deciding between its children and its guns, America had decided the loss of the former was, in Hodges’ chilling word, “bearable.”

The memory of it haunts a Sunday interview CNN did with Andy Parker, the father of Roanoke, Virginia, TV reporter Alison Parker, who was murdered live on camera last week by a hateful and deranged man named Vester Flanagan. In vowing to commit his life to achieving sensible gun control, Parker said a number of striking things.

“I’m telling you,” he said, “they messed with the wrong family.”

“I’m going to be working on this for a long time,” he said. “I know that this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

He acknowledged that we have seen many “tipping points” where guns are concerned: the shooting of a congresswoman and her constituents at a supermarket, a mass murder at a movie theater, the Christmas season butchery of schoolchildren in Newtown. “But,” he said, sounding like nothing so much as a father who very much loved his daughter, “I think people recognizing who the victim was and what she represented and how kind and sweet and innocent she was, I think this time it’s going to be different.”

It’s always going to be different. But it never is.

With all due deference to a father’s incalculable sorrow, the likeliest outcome here is that the murder of Alison Parker and her colleague Adam Ward and the wounding of local official Vicki Gardner will join the long line of tipping points that didn’t tip and turning points that didn’t turn. Which is why Parker’s words inspire no great hope, but only break your heart.

The sad thing is, there is no — repeat: no — inherent or insoluble conflict between the desire of some of us to have access to guns for sport and self-defense and the desire of others of us to keep dangerous people from possessing those weapons. Decent, moderate people, working from both sides of the question, could probably hammer out ideas to safeguard both imperatives in an afternoon.

Problem is, gun owners’ interests are represented not by decent, moderate people, but by the NRA, an extremist gang for whom even the most modest regulation is a brick in the road to tyranny. So long as the NRA has such an outsized voice in this debate, so long as politicians, unencumbered by conscience or vertebrae, tremble to its call, and so long as many of us are silent and supine in the face of that obscenity, Hodges is correct. And we are doomed to a future of frequent, predictable and preventable tragedies some of us will mistake for freedom.

It makes you wonder. If that kind of thing is really “bearable” then what, pray tell, is not?

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo

September 3, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Aiding And Abetting”: Australia Reduced Mass Violence By Confiscating Guns; In The U.S., Police Sell Them Back to Citizens

The on-camera shooting on Wednesday of two Virginia reporters has already reignited the debate over gun control in America. “I’m going to do something to shame legislators into doing something about closing loopholes and background checks and making sure crazy people don’t get guns,” Andy Parker, the father of slain WDBJ reporter Alison Parker, told Fox News.

Earlier efforts to push gun control legislation through Congress have failed. But Vox’s Zack Beauchamp describes a compelling case study for how another country has tackled the issue of gun violence. In the late 1990s, following a mass shooting, Australia launched a mandatory gun buy-back program. The government banned a number of types of guns, including automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, purchased guns from owners at fair market value, and offered amnesty for anyone turning in an illegally owned firearm. About 650,000 guns were seized and destroyed. Afterwards, Australia’s murder and suicide rates dropped.

Could such a program work in America? Certain cities have already experimented with such an approach. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, regularly holds buybacks and then melt down the guns. Cities in Florida, Connecticut, California, Arkansas, and Massachusetts also held gun buy-back initiatives in June this year, according to The Trace, a website dedicated to covering gun violence. More often than not, however, when police confiscate illegal guns or firearms found at crime scenes, they turn around and sell those weapons on the open market, raising quick cash for police supplies or training. Many states, including Kentucky, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Montana, have laws on the books that encourage or require local police to put the guns they collect each day back on the streets.

In theory, this would result in taking guns out of the hands of criminals and putting them into the hands of responsible, law-abiding gun owners. Thanks to the nation’s patchwork of background check laws, however, it’s very easy for guns to wind up in the hands of criminals (again). In many states, a straw purchaser with no criminal record could buy the weapon legally from a licensed dealer, then sell it, legally, in a private sale without requiring the buyer to undergo a background check. Let us not forget that Vester Lee Flanagan, the man who committed the horrific shooting in Virginia on Wednesday, obtained his gun legally.

The police practice of holding auctions or trading in guns to a dealer is legal under federal law, and in some states it’s mandatory. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative network of lawmakers and corporations, and National Rifle Association both have their fingerprints on these laws advancing in Montana, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Here’s a small sampling of the widespread practice:

  • In 2009, Montana passed a law prohibiting guns from being destroyed by police, and instead requiring them to be sold off to licensed dealers. North Carolina and Tennessee followed suit in 2010. The Tennessee law states, “Any weapon declared contraband shall be sold in a public sale or used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, at the discretion of the court.” Texas in 2013 passed a law that gives local departments the option to resell guns.

  • The Memphis Police Department in Tennessee traded 500 of its confiscated guns in return for 33 new assault rifles. A local outlet reported that guns sold by police have been traced to new crimes. In 2010, a man shot two police officers in the Pentagon using a gun sold by the Memphis police department in 2008.

  • In Duluth, Minnesota, the police department sold 46 of its shotguns for $5,538. One of those guns was used to shoot two officers at another police department. The mentally ill man who shot the officers would not have passed a background check, but he was able to obtain the gun easily through a straw purchase on an online auction—private sellers require no such background checks.

  • Indiana’s Evansville police sold 145 firearms in 2015 to raise $24,915 for the department’s firearms training.

  • Since 1998, Kentucky has had a law that lets the Kentucky State Police collect confiscated guns from local police departments and sell them in an auction. A single auction can include more than 400 guns, and auctions can collect $650,000 a year, 20 percent of which goes to state police and 80 percent of which goes back to local agencies. Guns used in murders can be sold off, as well.

After the June mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, President Barack Obama called once again for stronger gun laws, and noted that he “had to make statements like this too many times.” Now, in the wake of this week’s tragedy, we are having that conversation once again. As long as federal background checks are too weak and the enforcement of existing laws remains too timid, however, we’re essentially encouraging more gun violence. Taking weapons off the streets could help reduce gun violence in America. Yet sometimes, even our own law enforcement agencies are the ones responsible for putting weapons into the wrong hands.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, August 28, 2015

August 30, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Violence, Mass Shootings | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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