The arguments about enacting laws to protect American lives from death by assault rifle OR protecting the rights of gun owners present a false choice.
We have done both in the past century.
Federal gun control legislation has been around for a long time in our country.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has supported such laws when public safety was at issue. The NRA was first formed by a former Union soldier in 1871 to train people how to use weapons safely. Even conservatives supported state gun-control laws after the American Civil War and in the 1960s. Of course, conservative whites were frightened by their own perceptions of angry former slaves with Civil War U.S. Army carbines and, 100 years later, alarmed by Black Panthers walking the streets of American cities with rifles.
Ironically, Black Panthers cited the Second Amendment as supporting their right to bear arms. California Republicans disagreed.
Our Congress passed national gun control legislation in 1927, 1934, 1938, 1939, 1968, 1986, 1993, 1994, 2003, and 2005. A few of these laws were challenged in court and modified. One such court said that there was no sporting function for tommy guns, yesteryear’s version of an assault rifle.
Early legislation was designed to attack gangland crimes committed by notorious criminals such as Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, and Al Capone. As an example, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre of February 14, 1929, which resulted in the murder of seven Chicago gangsters, was instrumental in getting the NRA, Republicans and Democrats together to ban machine guns.
While Republicans and the NRA worked to help ban the assault weapons of the day after criminals were murdered, they now refuse to help ban assault weapons after the murder of 22 school children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 9 black worshippers in Charleston, or 22 mostly Hispanic shoppers at Walmart in El Paso, as well as hundreds of others. It is embarrassingly shameful.
Those federal laws required national licensing, the maintaining of customer purchase lists, and precluded convicted felons from owning guns.
Federal laws established 21 as the minimum age to buy a gun, precluded mentally ill people from owning guns, and put serial numbers on guns.
Congress required background checks and banned assault weapons. Concealed weapons were not allowed to be mailed. Rifle mail order purchases were outlawed after the JFK assassination when it was learned that his killer purchased his rifle through the mail. It was supported by the NRA.
Some of these laws have been allowed to expire (assault rifle ban). Other legislation has protected gun manufacturers from being sued by victims of gun crimes.
As Reagan said as governor, gun control would work no hardship on the honest citizen. He even said that gun possession was a ridiculous way to solve problems. Those were his expressed views when armed Black Panthers were relying on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Reagan, as president, flipped his views and stated that the best gun control was disarming thugs and criminals.
That sounds like the making of an NRA bumper sticker, doesn’t it? (If we outlaw guns, then only criminals will have guns.)
Unfortunately, FBI statistics during the 15 years since Republicans allowed the Clinton assault weapon ban to expire tell us that previously banned assault weapons were used in 11 of 15 gun massacres since 2014 and that those weapons killed 234 innocent Americans. And, in response to the simpleton bumper sticker mentality, the shooters weren’t criminals until they used assault weapons to commit mass murder.
The FBI data base tells us that the assault weapon ban, which was consistent with the Second Amendment, saved lives. Without the assault weapon ban, we have suffered more attacks with greater frequency and higher death tolls.
And let’s not forget the survivors of assault weapon attacks. It used to be that emergency room doctors could find the bullet in a patient’s body and repair the damage from the Saturday Night Special handgun. These days, doctors have difficulty determining which vital organ to repair first because human bodies are torn apart by bullets from military style high-powered weapons of mass destruction.
The psychological trauma suffered by assault weapon victims, their families, co-workers and friends should not be ignored.
Have you ever spoken with a law enforcement officer or paramedic who had to respond to a mass murder scene? Do you care about any of the people assigned to pick up body parts at crime scenes, wash blood from school room walls, or patch the holes caused by high powered rifles with large magazines?
There are people who proudly display the NRA Stand & Fight icon on their Facebook pages, immaturely insult others on social media, and sadly believe that we should not finely tune gun laws to protect innocent people. They hide behind belt buckles that say that rifles can be pried from their cold, dead hands. In the meantime, in the real world, there was that young mother who was one of the 22 mass murder victims in El Paso.
She died covering and protecting the body of her 2-month-old baby boy. The weight of her dead body broke bones in her baby’s body. And the boy’s father was shot and killed standing in front of the shooter trying to shield his wife and child.
Aren’t we proud? Really. Aren’t we proud.
Republicans roll out their “After Mass Murder Playbook” and routinely say “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” They then move on to talking about strengthening treatment for those with mental issues, whomever they may be.
However, mental health professionals tell us that mental illness did not suddenly increase when the assault weapons ban evaporated. The only increase was in the use of previously banned assault rifles, mass murder attacks, dead bodies and Republican/NRA complicit arrogance.
NRA advertising has focused on encouraging young men with a lack of confidence to get their “Man Card” (NRA slogan) by buying an assault rifle. Comedians joke that we could save lives and money if we simply helped young, male NRA members have sex. It doesn’t approach the 72 virgins promised to Muslim terrorist recruits but there is a similarity in the psychological approach.
After the recent mass murders in Dayton, Ohio, angry crowds shouted “Do something! Do something!”
A majority of Americans favor sensible new but familiar, common sense federal laws that pass constitutional muster. Those laws include banning assault rifles, outlawing high capacity magazines, conducting universal background checks, precluding gun sales to people reported to law enforcement as dangerous by mental health professionals, keeping guns away from those convicted of violent misdemeanors, and establishing mandatory waiting periods.
Our constitutional rights have always been limited by other laws, the need to protect Americans, and common sense.
Freedom of Speech? Mere words can constitute a criminal assault and put you in jail. And what you say can lead to a slander lawsuit.
Freedom of Assembly? Apply for your city permit first. It might be denied.
Freedom of Religion? What happened to polygamy?
Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures? Listen to the answer from an experienced criminal defense lawyer when she stops laughing.
Right to Life? Columbine, Las Vegas, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sutherland Springs Church, Stoneman Douglas High School, San Bernardino, Aurora, Thousand Oaks, Virginia Beach, Santa Fe, and on and on and …
Congress has previously passed national gun control laws that are credited with saving lives. Those laws have legally placed limits on the right to bear arms. Bumper sticker law degrees, abusive social media posts, and Facebook icons don’t change the facts. Nor do they protect lives.
Our founding fathers said that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights given to all humans by their creator which governments are created to protect. They created a government that was obligated to protect lives.
I know that the NRA and Republicans used to understand that basic patriotic principle. I grew up in a Republican household. My dad was a career soldier. He was an expert sharp shooter. He lead combat soldiers in Europe and Korea. He trained men to fight in Vietnam. The weapons of war he was an expert in using were not to be used on Americans in America.
Don’t let that two month old child in El Paso grow up believing that his parents died in vain. Please. It’s well passed time to STAND & FIGHT for American lives. It’s the right thing to do, again.
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Charles A. Wieland,
retired Madera County Superior Court judge