I am no different than most people. I am tired of this. I am tired of reading about the latest massacre of innocents. I fear turning on the radio to hear of bloodthirsty maniacs who slaughter a roomful of first-graders, or a theater full of people, or a crowd at a speech, or customers at a restaurant. I truly wish I had not written all this before.
“… The basic questions go unanswered, such as: Could you devise a gun control law that would prevent mass murders like the latest in Aurora, Colo.? No, not in the absolute sense.”
“… Better to be honest and realistic. Nobody is seriously proposing a law that would have created more than a slight inconvenience for a mad gunman like the accused Jared L. Loughner.”
“… There have been millions of troubled teens through the years, many with easy access to guns, but until recently no Littletons or Jonesboros or Springfields. I wish someone could put their finger on the problem.”
We all repeat ourselves. Newtown, Conn., is a more massively tragic take on a shamefully familiar theme. There are the same shattered reactions, the same proposed laws, the accusations, the misunderstandings, ignorance, posturing, the hopeless inability to explain it, the same lack of realistic solutions, and the genuine heartfelt sorrow.
President Obama represented the emotions of the nation when he shed a tear and cried out that this insanity must end. End how? He would back another assault weapons ban, more background checks, the closing of loopholes. He appointed another task force.
The legendary 1994 assault weapons ban is held up as a holy writ unjustly undone by the pro-gun people in 2004. We forget how laughably ineffective it was. It didn’t ban automatic weapons. They were already illegal. It didn’t ban semiautomatic weapons, either rifles or pistols. It limited mostly cosmetic doo-dads that looked scary. Manufacturers could work around them by removing a few useless features, and change nothing about the way the weapon functioned. High-capacity magazines could no longer be manufactured, but ownership was legal and the millions that already existed could be sold at will. As columnist Jacob Sullum pointed out, we know an assault weapons ban would not have stopped Adam Lanza, because Connecticut had such a ban, modeled after the old federal law, and rated his mother’s Bushmaster .223 as perfectly legal. The national ban was in effect when Harris and Klebold pulled off their massacre at Columbine High School, and it didn’t bother them at all.
It becomes impossible to make a point not already made by someone else. Stalwarts like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg stand up for action and propose failed remedies — another assault weapons ban, another ban on high-capacity magazines, more analysis of mental health. Others answer that it will be difficult to write an assault weapons ban with any real effect. There are all kinds of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns that don’t look like military issue, but are just as deadly. For pistols, semiautomatic is normal. No one talks about banning those, just about limiting their magazine capacity.
We will move on. I have no strong objection to an assault weapons ban, but no expectation that it will be any more effective than the last. Ban high-capacity magazines, and I’m not troubled. I don’t see any need for them and I wish mass murderers didn’t have them, but we have to be realistic and know how difficult it will be to get rid of them.
We could do this. Perhaps the next mass murderer will find his planning more difficult. Gun violence as a whole won’t decrease. Murder, suicide and mayhem will continue as before, and I will have to write this column again.
Tracy Warner’s column appears Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 665-1163.