COURSEY: Six months without 'meaningful action' on guns
Published: Friday, June 14, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 14, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.
Today marks exactly six months since 20 children and six adults were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and exactly six months since President Barack Obama called on the nation “to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”
And exactly no meaningful action has been taken.
Not only has nothing been done in those six months to strengthen America's gun laws or to make it harder for people with mental illness or criminal histories to obtain guns, but we find out in today's paper that even the laws we think protect us have more holes in them than a paper target at a shooting range.
That's right – the perpetrator of the latest mass shooting in America, which happened a week ago in Santa Monica, used a gun constructed of legal parts that needed just a little bit of modification and assembly to create what otherwise would be an assault rifle that is illegal in California.
Does anyone think the Founding Fathers had that in mind when the Second Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights?
We've heard a lot of rhetoric about freedom and liberty over the past six months, but at what point does the freedom of the general public to be safe from a whacko with a weapon trump the freedom of every citizen to be armed to the teeth? Where are the limits?
John Zawahri, a 23-year-old with a history of psychiatric problems, bomb making and threats against classmates and teachers at his high school, had 1,300 rounds of ammunition on him when he shot and killed five people before police killed him. With his modified gun, he carried ammunition magazines capable of holding 30 rounds each. According to today's story from the Associated Press, you can't legally buy or sell such magazines in California, but it's not illegal to have them.
Those are the kind of laws we have protecting us from the Santa Monica and Newtown and Aurora and Virginia Tech shooters of the world, and the ones who will sear more otherwise obscure place names into our memories in the future.
We know it will happen, yet the United States Senate is so fearful of the gun lobby that it can't even muster enough votes to strengthen laws requiring background checks of people seeking to purchase guns in America.
Background checks won't keep every criminal or potential mass shooter from getting a gun. California's law didn't stop Zawahri, who may have obtained his weapons legally after a five-year prohibition triggered by his psychiatric problems expired in 2011, according to the AP.
But if a beefed-up federal background check can keep guns away from one potential mass shooter, or if a reasonable tweak of California's law to ban “modifiable” assault weapons can prevent the next killing spree, don't we want our representatives in Washington and Sacramento to pursue those goals?
It's been six months since Newtown. With the exceptions of legislative changes in Colorado and New York, nothing has changed during that time. And while politicians sit on their hands, the public has returned to its regularly scheduled shrugging. A young man with an illegal assault rifle constructed of legal components shot up a college campus in Santa Monica last week, killing five before being killed himself, and it hardly raised an eyebrow.
There's a talk around the nation's capitol that senators are meeting behind closed doors, whispering about the possibility of trying again to pass tougher gun legislation. But nobody expects anything to happen before September, and maybe not even then – given that September is the beginning of the 2014 election season.
Of course, there will always be another election to consider. And, it seems, there will always be another mass shooting.
Maybe the next one will be awful enough to cause some “meaningful action.”
Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.
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