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Editorial: Fed up with lax gun laws? 'There is only one remedy...'

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Posted on October 5, 2017 |
By Angelo S. Lynn



Thoughts of how to impose some aspects of restraint over America’s abhorrent gun laws has to be on the minds of all Americans since Sunday’s deadly assault in Las Vegas that killed 59 and wounded more than 500 country music fans attending an outdoor concert.

New to this particular assault was the use of bump stocks and other accessories that allowed the semi-automatic weapons to reach fully-automatic rates of fire. Under the current National Firearms Act, the sale, manufacture and transfer of automatic weapons is illegal. Semi-automatic rifles typically have a rate of fire between 45 and 60 rounds per minute. A bump stock, or other similar device, increases the semi-automatic rifle’s rate of fire to between 400 and 800 rounds per minute. That’s the set-up that allowed Stephan Paddock, the 63-year-old millionaire gambler, to terrorize festival-goers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel for roughly 10 minutes. Such a hailstorm of bullets — potentially several thousand — reaffirms the one thing gun-safety proponents have been saying for years: that semi-automatic weapons and accessories are made for one purpose: to kill people — lots of them in as quick a manner as possible, and that their sale should be prohibited.

That this country allows such policies to exist, mainly out of fear of bucking the National Rifle Association, shows a shocking disregard for public safety, the majority will, and common-sense.

And yet, President Trump initially deferred talking about gun control measures until a more appropriate time; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, repeated the standard line from Republicans after each mass shooting that to talk about gun control laws politicizes the tragedy; and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said he would not be bringing up gun control measures anytime soon. Later, of course, never comes, and those congressmen and women (mainly Republicans, but also some Democrats) line up for NRA money and its political support at the next election.

Yes, Paddock was a sick man, and what he did was demented; but America’s gun laws are sick as well, and congressional support of them, and their unwillingness to take even the most common-sense measures, is also demented.

The nation’s lax gun laws are the problem, and solutions are not that hard to implement if only the Republican Party would get off its knees and stand up to the NRA. Will it? We reviewed numerous commentaries written over the past few days. Here are three perspectives:

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Late night television comedy show host Jimmy Kimmel, along with others, made an impassioned plea for Americans to press their congressional leaders to action. The 10-minute monologue was seen and shared by millions.  The transcript is worthy of a quick read.

Political pundits and editorial writers across the country filled hundreds of pages with commentaries — most exasperated by Congress’s inability to move toward any sensible legislation. Most of the more than two dozen we read were cynical about significant progress, such as this comment by Steve Israel, former Democratic representative from Long Island, NY:

“In the wake of one the deadliest mass shootings in our nation’s history, perhaps the most asked question by Americans is: “Will anything change?’ The simple answer is no. The more vital question is, ‘Why not?’

“Congress is already doing what it sees as its part. Flags have been lowered, thoughts and prayers tweeted… It’s how they responded to other mass shootings in Columbine, Herkimer, Tucson, Santa Monica, Hialeah, Terrell, Alturas, Killeen, Isla Vista, Marysville, Chapel Hill, Tyrone, Waco, Charleston, Chattanooga, Lafayette, Roanoke, Roseburg, Colorado Springs, San Bernardino, Birmingham, Fort Hood and Aurora, at Virginia Tech, the Washington Navy Yard, and the congressional baseball game practice, to name too many.”

Yet, Israel said, nothing has been done. Why the inability to act? Israel cites three reasons:

“First, just like everything else in Washington, the gun lobby has become more polarized. The National Rifle Association, once a supporter of sensible gun-safety measures, is now forced to oppose them because of competing organizations. More moderation means less market share. The gun lobby is in a race to see who can become more brazen, more extreme.

“Second, congressional redistricting has pulled Republicans so far to the right that anything less than total subservience to the gun lobby is viewed as supporting gun confiscation. The gun lobby score is a litmus test with zero margin for error.

“Third, the problem is you, the reader. You’ve become inoculated. You’ll read this essay and others like it, and turn the page or click another link. You’ll watch or listen to the news and shake your head, then flip to another channel or another app. This horrific event will recede into our collective memory.”

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Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn, who was a congressman for Newtown, Conn., when a gunman killed 20 children and six educators in the Sandy Hook Elementary School, reminded Americans in an op-ed column that several solutions are not that controversial among voters:

“First, contrary to the mythology spread by the gun lobby, there is not much real controversy around the first steps we should take to trim rates of gun crime. Large majorities of Americans support universal background checks, permit requirements for gun ownership and bans on the most dangerous kinds of weapons and ammunition. The gun lobby, and the loud vocal minority it echoes, makes the issue seem like more of a hot button than it is. Second, research shows that these interventions work to a stunning degree. In my state of Connecticut, which has expanded background checks and requires issued handgun permits, gun crimes have dropped by 40 percent.”

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And New York Timescolumnist Thomas Friedman opened with the thought that had the Las Vegas gunman been a Muslim or terrorist, the president, Republicans in Congress and every Trump supporter would have sprung to action moments after the shooting with a litany of racist and xenophobic bills to immediately enact into law. That the gunman was a white male, wealthy, probably a conservative and a gun owner (he had 46 in his possession) shut down that predictable right-wing rant into a call for inaction under the guise of not politicizing the incident.

Friedman ended his piece lamenting such hypocrisy, but also with a straightforward assessment of the political struggle ahead:

“What to do?

“Forget about persuading these legislators (bought by the gun lobby.) They are not confused or under-informed. They are either bought or intimidated. Because no honest and decent American lawmaker would look at Las Vegas… today and say, ‘I think the smartest and most prudent thing to do for our kids is to just do nothing.’

“So there is only one remedy: Get power. If you are as fed up as I am, then register someone to vote or run for office yourself or donate money to someone running to replace these cowardly legislators with a majority for common-sense gun laws. This is about raw power, not persuasion. And the first chance we have to change the balance of power is the 2018 mid-term elections. Forget about trying to get anything done before then. Don’t waste your breath. Just get power. Start now.”

Angelo Lynn

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