Written by Mary Buffett
Sadly as a nation, our senses have become dulled by yet another mass shooting. This time a person who had a long history of being psychologically unbalanced walked into the Navy Yard with sawed-off shotgun and a Beretta 9 MM semi-automatic pistol and started shooting. By the time he was killed by military police, 12 were killed, eight were wounded, and Washington came to an official standstill.
If you think that we are seeing an uptick of these mass killings — you’re right.
The terrible events happen at such a frightening pace that when the next day’s news arrives, we’ve already moved on to the next terrible story. Right now, we are looking the terrible massacre of innocent shoppers in an upscale Nairobi, Kenya shopping mall. Currently we know that 62 are dead and at this writing, the siege continues.
First draft of his eulogy. Who would have ever thought that when John Lennon co-wrote the Beatles song “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” it served as the first draft of his own eulogy? As I think about my own music background, I’ve always wondered how a more mature Lennon would have sounded as he opened the next chapter of his career but that was silenced when Mark David Chapman emptied his bullets into Lennon’s back. Back then, the big concern was the use of cheap handguns. In 1980, the dangers that came with semi-automatic and other battlefield weapons was still far off into the future.
Sadly, it takes a tragedy for change. Democracies are terribly reactive when it comes to fixing what ails us legislatively. The first gun control legislations took place after the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in 1968. The semi-automatic ban passed during the Clinton years was the result of several school shootings that horrified us all. However, the semi-automatic ban lapsed.
You might think that the horrors of a mass shooting in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, the carnage in Newtown, Connecticut, and the current Navy Yard shooting might spur to enact reasonable gun reform, considering that it is supported by 90 percent of Americans. However, the NRA has done a textbook job of blocking any reform with the threat of pulling campaign funding for Republicans and other conservative Democrats. Last year’s attempt to close the loopholes of current gun sale registration was an embarrassing episode for several Democratic Senators who should have known better.
Today’s NRA is not a gun owner’s group — it’s more of a manufacturer’s lobby. They are there to help their clients sell their product — and that is all. It does not matter if a private sale of a semi-automatic weapon in an Alabama parking lot ends up in the hands of a Mexican narco-terrorist and could be potentially used against our own DEA agents; they are blind to that. The NRA has inserted language, like indemnifying gun manufacturers against any civil or criminal claims, into the most innocuous of congressional business and not by accident.
We have no change because of legislator fear. These congressmen and senators endlessly worry about having to deal with a primary challenge. Even if they win, it might soften them up to a loss in the general election. The NRA has taken fear and has made it into successful legislative playbook to forestall change.
Meanwhile in Australia. Back in the last decade Australians faced an epidemic of mass shootings and this led to the 1996 National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which was signed into law by conservative Prime Minister John Howard, demonstrated the right legislation can lead to safer streets. Between 1991 and 2001, the number gun deaths in Australia declined 47 percent. The number of suicides by gun also decreased sharply.
However, in the United States, we fall back on soundtrack and substitute them for any progress on this issue. In this case, the same voices emerge post-massacre. Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said that this would have prevented if more people wore guns, perhaps forgetting that this was on a military base as opposed to a schoolyard. The NRA, perhaps to guard its flank against — if you can believe it — the more radical Gun Owners of America, who refuse to compromise on anything. Guess what: The NRA is afraid too — of losing their membership to a more extreme pressure group.
The NRA clings to the argument that “a good person with a gun can stop a bad person with a gun.” Reasonable people reject this as nonsense. If this were the case, the massacre in a Newtown, Conn. elementary school would never have taken place. The “good person” with a gun in the situation would have been the mother, Nancy Lanza, who had an arsenal of guns in her home. However, the first person her son Adam killed was his mother, who he killed in her sleep with four bullets pumped into her head. After that, Lanza drove to the local elementary school. Soon Hell was in session.
The irresponsibility of somebody like Nancy Lanza to keep an open arsenal for her family mirrors the irresponsibility of the NRA and other groups who turn a blind eye to their carnage. However, we cannot give up.
The great majorities of gun owners are responsible and law-abiding citizens. They lock up their ammunition and their weapons separately so that deadly mistakes can never happen. They teach their sons and daughters to have respect not only for the weapon used while hunting but the game as well. They are not extremists and most would have no issues with a registration program. That is a point of hope.
The point here is that we should not give up. Getting the various civil rights bills passed took time and effort. There were setbacks and disappointments but we remained strong and did what we could until the right legislation was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. We shouldn’t let ourselves become discouraged when we hear this kind of horrible news. We should not let ourselves become dulled by this horror because wisdom will carry the day in the end. We should pray for those wounded and killed and killed, knowing that the good fight for sensible gun legislation will continue.
Photo Credit: Kevin Rutherford