The way it now looks, if Congress reaches agreement on gun violence legislation, the sane ones among us should all give thanks for small mercies. Small indeed, because it’s already pretty much a fait accompli that an assault weapons ban will not be included in anything lawmakers pass…if “passing” is in the cards. Despite the valiant efforts of the president and lots of folks who were awakened from a convenient slumber on the gun violence issue by the Newtown, Conn. episode, here we go again, with those championing sensible gun laws back on their heels against a wave of trigger-mania.
March 14 marked three months since that horror in Connecticut. And we ought not be surprised if there had been an understanding among unrestricted firearms access advocates, of a running clock, post Newtown, that programmed the ramp-up progression to the full offensive by the gun lobby that we’ve been seeing. There’s a lot to ponder about the state of America’s soul when the senseless slaughter of innocents is an image strong enough to hold at bay the gun crazies’ intemperate bellowing for but so long. Heck, it was mere weeks after the ghastly happening that the father of one of the young victims was getting a disrespectful reception from some in the audience at a legislative hearing on new gun violence legislation for Connecticut.
Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994. In retrospect, one is constrained to ask whether the country has since slipped closer to an 1800s frontier sensibility. Also rating reflective inquiry, what facilitated passage of the measure in ’94 in the first place? Was it the devoted campaigning of wheelchair-bound James Brady, and perhaps even more so his old boss, former President Reagan, giving full-throated support for it? Whatever, cold fact is that by the time we got to the law’s designated sunset in 2004, its permanent demise was a forgone conclusion. Not even Newtown, we’re now realizing, can bring us back to a common-sense place where there’s civility sufficient for agreeing that assault weapons are battlefield items, that offering them as common or garden merchandise on the domestic front should only make sense to their manufacturers. What does it say of this country that there are apparently a troubling enough number of its citizens who buy into the notion that the “right to bear arms” guarantees that proliferation of military-style rifles among the population is entirely in order. What’s next on the list, howitzers and rocket-propelled grenades?
One of the blog posts in response to a news report on the disrespect shown to that Newtown victim’s father speculated about how differently the “right to bear arms” language would have been framed if its authors had benefit of a crystal ball and thus hip to the bonanza industrial opportunists and loonies in the society would see in the Second Amendment’s perceived “guns for all” invitation. What’s deflating is how little appetite there is in the corridors of power to halt the madness. Long Island’s intrepid crusader, Rep. Caroline McCarthy, could berate fellow members of Congress, call them wimps for kowtowing to the NRA and all the rest, it moves the needle not one bit. Prior to Newtown, the gun violence issue might just as soon not have been one of great national concern. All too frequent reminders that the issue was still very much alive and not going anyplace mattered little. Not Virginia Tech, not Aurora, Colorado, not Congresswoman Gabby Giffords being maimed and others killed in Arizona. Incredulously, the powers that be turned a blind eye to all of that.
After Sandy Hook Elementary School leapt into the nation’s consciousness as a place of unspeakable terror, the gun rights purveyors didn’t want to be too politically incorrect and appear distant from the “We must do something” clarion call. But, true to how extremists tend to roll on these things, what the gun lobby had to offer was patronizing fluff that had nothing to do with keeping weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Put cops in schools, they said. And arm teachers. In maniacal defiance of the reality that serious restrictions on firearms accessibility are a must in any society that has tilted as far the other way as this one, they’ve come up with these band-aid so-called fixes of the problem. Please, it’s bad enough that some schools have earned the type of reputation that has warranted a cop’s presence and/or metal detectors and the like. We’ll really be a society going bonkers if we get comfortable with the idea that placing cops in schools, particularly where younger kids are enrolled, makes for a cool learning environment. As for arming teachers, the less said about that lunacy, the better.
So we look to Washington for some leadership on this after it seemed enough of the town had sprung awake following Newtown. But sadly, it’s a Washington in which the assault weapons ban is a lost cause. It’s a Washington where the crazies are determined to go to the mat with a fight-to-the-death mindset over what one would have presumed to be no-brainer issues like background checks and magazine clip size. Lord only knows what manner of half-baked drivel might emerge from lawmakers, if it gets that far. Let’s hope those kids’ sacrifice isn’t about continuing to defer to bozos calling the shots.