By now everyone has read multiple stories about the latest horror of mass death and injuries caused by a married couple in San Bernardino Calif. Coming right on the heels of another episode of shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, it's enough to make everyone wonder what on Earth is going on here and what can be done to mitigate, if not stop altogether, such outbreaks of insanity.
We've written before on the subject of the shockingly inadequate rules and regulations surrounding obtaining firearms that prevails in the U.S., and wrung our hands at the incredible sway the National Rifle Association has over so many public representatives and political leaders. We've said all we have to say on the subject and won't repeat that here — the cliff notes version, for those who may have missed our earlier comments is that a severe tightening of background checks and limits to accessibility of weapons capable of killing people is in order. That applies with special force to so-called military style assault weapons. Why any legitimate hunter or user of guns for sporting purposes like target shooting needs such a weapon is hard to fathom.
Barring a sweeping federal solution — sure to freak out a majority of politicians who are utterly spineless on this issue — we'll offer a more temporary solution, until Congress gets around to a comprehensive solution like the one Australians adopted in 1996 after a deranged guman shot and killed 35 people there. A gun buyback program, coupled with tightened licensing rules which included a 28 day waiting period and a national gun registry, have resulted in a complete absence of such events down under; the exception being a standoff in 2014 that resulted in two deaths at the hands of a deranged gunman, who also died.
we're under no illusions that such a comprehensive solution will gain any traction in Congress, but how about this — could we at least prevent individuals who are on the federal terrorism suspect watchlist from being allowed to obtain firearms at licensed gun stores?
On Thursday, Dec. 3, the U.S. Senate once again rejected a bill that would have prohibited those on the terror watchlist from purchasing guns or explosives. Those who opposed this change should be ashamed of themselves. It's pathetic — there's no other word for it.
How is it we allow suspected terrorists any legal access to firearms, especially at a time when everyone is still processing the events of Nov. 13 in Paris and worried about more such events on U.S. soil?
Closing this "loophole" — and there are many more that could be closed — would seem a no-brainer, but the NRA leadership apparently sees this as another potential camel's nose poking into the tent, leading to inexorably to more far-reaching restrictions. and of course, they're right to worry. It's what should have happened long ago, before Newtown conn., Aurora, Colo., Charleston, S.C. and now San Berardino, Calif. There are many other locations that could be added to this very short list.
Gun violence, fueled by too-easy access to guns, has killed far more people than terrorist acts have since 9/11. Sure, enhanced mental health services would be desirable. Has anyone calculated how expensive that could be, and how much taxes would have to be raised to pay for that? Nothing wrong with dialing up more mental health services for those who may need them, but one gets the impression that this is a cop-out way of deflecting attention from the primary cause of gun violence — which is that it's too easy to obtain guns in the first place. and if the restrictions are too tight here in Vermont, it's easier somewhere else.
And yes, we know that California has some of the most strict gun laws of any states, and a horror show occurred there anyway. But the problem is that there are 49 other states who aren't on the same page. And it's a safe bet that California's strict gun laws have saved lives that might have been forfeited. We'll never know.
The real mystery is why legitimate, responsible and honorable hunters and users of guns don't insist the NRA step out of the way of sensible gun legislation before more another horrifying event occurs. After a while, they stop seeming horrifying anymore, and do become almost routine. It doesn't have to be that way.
Making buying assault rifles illegal and stiffening background check procedures won't stop gun violence completely, in all likellihood, but if one life is saved, it's worth it.