Let’s take a look at today’s New York Times editorial, titled An Assault on Everyone’s Safety, shall we?
The Glock 19 is a semiautomatic pistol so reliable that it is used by thousands of law enforcement agencies around the world, including the New York Police Department, to protect the police and the public. On Saturday, in Tucson, it became an instrument of carnage for two preventable reasons: It had an oversize ammunition clip that was once restricted by federal law and still should be; and it was fired by a disturbed man who should never have been able to purchase it legally.
The Glock 19 is an outstanding piece of engineering. I should know, it was the first firearm that I ever purchased. I still own it.
But let’s be clear – this was an instrument of carnage because an individual, who appears to have serious mental issues, decided to commit a crime. The gun did not make this decision on its own.
Now, let’s talk about “clips”. It’s not a clip, it’s a magazine. A clip is something you put in your hair or use to hold paper together. Firearms use magazines to hold cartridges or rounds, not bullets.
I know, you think I’m playing semantic games here, but I’m not. As an editorial board, your goal should be to persuade others to come around to your point of view. You will never capture the attention of people who are serious about firearms (like, say, the members of the NRA), if you don’t at least pretend that you know and understand the subject matter at hand.
But we’ll get back to that.
When you say “was once restricted by federal law”, that’s not quite accurate. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, a law that has never been proven to have accomplished anything other than banning guns that looked scary, prohibited the manufacture of magazines that held more than ten rounds (except for sale to law enforcement & the military). Existing magazines were perfectly legal to buy & sell. So I have no idea that this was actually supposed to accomplish.
The ludicrously thin membrane that now passes for gun control in this country almost certainly made the Tucson tragedy worse. Members of Congress are legitimately concerned about their own safety now, but they should be no less worried about the effect of their inaction on the safety of all Americans.
As lawmakers in Washington engage this week in moments of silence and tributes to Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the other casualties, they should realize that they have the power to reduce the number of these sorts of horrors, and their lethality.
No one should do anything this week other than take some time to reflect before acting. We don’t need laws born from rash moments, we need laws born from moments of quiet reflection, over a period of time, so that we don’t make bad laws. Which is what you’re proposing we do here — bad law.
Now, could you point me to some information showing that the 1994 Assault Weapons ban contributed to a significant enough drop in firearms crime related to these sorts of weapons and/or magazines to justify limiting such a weapon or device?
No, I didn’t think so.
And even if you could, would it override a citizen’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms?
To do so, they will need to stand up to the National Rifle Association and its allies, whose lobbying power continues to grow despite the visceral evidence that the groups have made the country a far more dangerous place. Having won a Supreme Court ruling establishing a right to keep a firearm in the home, the gun lobby is striving for new heights of lunacy, waging a campaign to legalize the possession of a gun in schools, bars, parks, offices, and churches, even by teenagers.
The NRA, of which I am a Life Member and a Certified Instructor, had little to do with the Supreme Court cases in question. These cases were brought by individual citizens, through a great attorney, and supported by other firearms associations. The NRA joined in later.
That right, by the way, which you denigrate, wasn’t established by the Supreme Court – it was established in the Second Amendment in the US Constitution. In fact, many would argue, that this right has always existed, even before we wrote the Constitution & the Bill of Rights – just like free speech, freedom of religion, and our right to be free from unreasonable search & seizure.
You reference lunacy because law abiding citizens, acting through their lobbying group (the NRA), want to fully legalize possession of a gun in schools, bars, parks, offices, and churches. I ask, why is that lunacy?
Here in Minnesota, where I’ve lived for nearly six years, we can lawfully carry in a bar, a park, an office (unless prohibited by an employer), or a church. In fact, we can drink (although it’s not encouraged) while carrying. In the years since this law has been passed, there have been minimal incidents involving gun owners.
So what’s the issue? Does it offend your New York sensibilities or something?
It reflexively opposes even mild, sensible restrictions — but if there is any reason left in this debate, the latest mass shooting should force a retreat. Is there anyone, even the most die-hard gun lobbyist, who wants to argue that a disturbed man should be able to easily and legally buy a Glock to shoot a congresswoman, a judge, a 9-year-old girl?
The suspect in this case is at fault for what happened — not his access to weapons, but let’s discuss this anyways.
Current federal law prohibits individuals that have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution or have been adjudicated as mentally defective may not possess a firearm. There are other restrictions as well, but this one appears to be the most relevant in this situation. The suspect in this case either did not meet this standard or that information wasn’t available in the National Instant Background Check System.
A lot of this sort of information is protected by medical privacy – laws and regulations that I’m pretty sure that this editorial board has supported in the past. Want those to be more available for government to use in decision making? Might want to look at changing those regulations.
One of the first things Congress can do is to take up a bill proposed by Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat of Long Island, that would ban the extended ammunition clip used by the Arizona shooter, Jared Loughner. A Glock 19 usually holds 15 bullets. Mr. Loughner used an oversize clip allowing him to fire as many as 33 bullets before pausing to reload. It was at that point that he was tackled and restrained.
Between 1994 and 2004, it was illegal to manufacture or import the extended clips as part of the ban on assault weapons. But the ban was never renewed because of the fierce opposition of the N.R.A. At least six states, including California and New York, ban extended clips, which serve absolutely no legitimate purpose outside of military or law enforcement use. At a minimum, that ban should be extended nationwide, and should prohibit possession, not just manufacture.
Magazine, not a clip. But we’ve had that discussion already.
And this solves what exactly? First, criminals aren’t going to turn these things in, they’re going to keep theirs. And there are probably millions upon millions of extended magazines that are out there.
Second, we’ve already discussed above how the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban had little to no impact on these sorts of crimes – using these sorts of weapons.
Third, I can almost guarantee that the goals of this legislation won’t be to limit “extended clips” of 33 rounds – it’ll limit even the standard 15 round Glock 19 magazine – and we’ll be back to 10 again — an arbitrary number that means nothing, other than that someone “feels safe” now.
The gun itself was purchased by Mr. Loughner at a sporting goods store that followed the bare-minimum federal background check, which only flags felons, people found to be a danger to themselves or others, or those under a restraining order.
Let’s be fair to the gun store here — they conducted themselves fully in accordance with federal & state law and sold a firearm to an individual they believed to have been a legal, legitimate purchaser. By all accounts, I’ve not seen anything that suggests that the suspect purchased this handgun illegally.
Mr. Loughner was rejected by the military for failing a drug test, and had five run-ins with the Pima Community College police before being suspended for disruptive activity. Why can’t Congress require a background check — without loopholes for gun shows or private sales — that would detect this sort of history? If the military didn’t want someone like Mr. Loughner to be given a firearm, neither should the public at large.
Probably because the Second Amendment is a constitutional right, just like the First, Fourth, and Fifth. Should we be arbitrarily denying an individual their rights because of the sorts of incidents above? Or should we require a higher standard?
Don’t misunderstand me – Mr. Loughner appeared to have a history of issues that indicate serious mental challenges – and that he was a threat. No one in the government who crossed paths with this guy followed-up to do the right thing to resolve these situations — no one tried to commit him, he wasn’t charged with a more serious crime, I didn’t see him being investigated for the previous threats that he had made…
I’m not interested in pointing blame, except at Mr. Loughner and his actions – but there’s more than could have been done with him to prevent this from happening.
At least two members of Congress say they will start to carry weapons to district meetings, the worst possible response. If lawmakers want to enhance their safety, and that of their constituents, they should recognize that the true public menace is the well-dressed gun lobbyist hanging out just outside their chamber door.
How is this the worst possible response?
There is no sin in legally taking action to protect one’s self, their community, and their co-workers. We should applaud them for having the stones to do so rather than trying to propose a law to ban anyone from possessing a weapon within 1000′ feet of a member of Congress and others. There’s no moral high ground in going about unarmed and unwilling to take steps to protect one’s self.
By the way, murder has been illegal for centuries in this country. There’s a law that prohibits it and prescribes some pretty awful punishment for committing it
That law didn’t stop an individual from killing other citizens this weekend. More gun laws aren’t going to either.