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Even horror of Sandy Hook not enough to bring about sensible gun regulation

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War weary.

That's what Obama said America was, when he was rebuked in his effort to use military force to stop Syria from massacring its own civilians using chemical weapons.

But apparently America is not weary enough of children being massacred in their schools, on the playground, in their places of worship, in parks, in their homes, on their streets.

Not weary enough of innocent teenagers murdered as they watch a movie or go to a shopping mall.

Not weary enough....

More people are killed each month by gun violence than were killed on September 11, 2001, yet that was enough to invade two countries, unleash "shock and awe" that has snuffed out the lives of tens of thousands of people, maimed countless more and displaced millions.

More people are killed each year at the barrel of a gun than the total of all the soldiers who have died fighting in a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In fact, more people have been killed in the year just since Adam Lanza unleashed a spray of bullets and within 7 minutes took the lives of 26 Sandy Hook elementary school children and their educators, than have died fighting in the War on Terror.

War weary.

But not weary enough to stop the senseless, endless killing because it is just so easy for abusers and psychotics to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction.

More than 30,000 have been victims of gun violence since Newtown.

In the year since Sandy Hook, nearly 200 children have been killed by guns, "spread across 43 states, from inner cities to tiny rural towns," Mark Follman reported in Mother Jones: Among them, 60 who died at the hands of their own parents, 50 of them in homicides; the average age was 6 years old; the greatest number, 92, were from the South.

In the year since Newtown, there have been at least 16 mass shootings, including the US Navy Yard in Washington (13 dead), just blocks from the Capitol. But those people were middle aged, and not nearly as sympathetic as six year olds. There was the murder of a TSA officer but he was an immigrant and a federal worker, so not much sympathy there. There was that shooting spree of police officers in California, but that was like made-for-TV drama rather than the pulls-at-your-heartstrings variety, and clearly not sufficient to move Congress to take action.

At least half of these mass murders happened in gun-loving states - you know, where guns are so plentiful it basically disproves the contention of the Oath Keepers and NRA that "the best defense against a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." These include Hialeah, Fla. (7 dead including the gunmen, Pedro Vargas who went on a shooting spree in his apartment complex); Crab Orchard, Tenn (4 dead, a woman and 3 teenagers); Oklahoma City, Ok (4 dead); Dallas (4 dead); Tulsa, Ok (4 dead), Clarksburg, WV (4 dead).

In the year since Newtown evoked such a passionate outcry, there have been 24 school shootings in America - an average of one every two weeks, Brandy Zadrozny reported in the Daily Beast.

"Two thirds of these shootings took place on high school and college campuses. The remainder took place in middle schools or elementary schools, like the one in which Adam Lanza killed 20 students, six adults, and then himself a year ago this week. The shootings occurred in 15 states across the country, with the highest concentration in Florida (five) and Georgia (three)."

No, make that 25: just a day before the Newtown one-year anniversary, a student shot up his Arapahoe high school near Denver, Colorado, wounding two students and killing himself. The school is just 8 miles from Colombine, a school made notorious when two students murdered 12 other students and one teacher.

After Columbine, school districts rushed to spent a fortune of their scarce resources on security efforts to "harden" their school buildings. But these were two of their own students; clearly the problem wasn't keeping out an intruder but making it less ridiculously easy for a teenager to acquire lethal weapons; the 18-year old shooter at Arapahoe High School purchased his rifle legally.

And in the focus on the dead, the fact that in a typical year 100,000 people are injured by gun violence - perhaps for the rest of their lives - is ignored; 7500 children were sent to the hospital with gunshot wounds this year. What is the cost to the economy from addressing those injuries and in the loss to society by the stolen human potential?

Gun violence advocates claim that the reason the US has such atrocious figures of gun deaths and injuries is because we have too much gun control (and not enough guns).

But in England, where they enacted tough gun control laws in response to a mass shooting event, there are only 35 deaths a year, versus 85 a day in US, the most violent and gun obsessed society in the world.

The Pro-Gun-Violence advocates immediately jump in and say that immediately following an incident is no time to discuss safety measures. But these incidents are happening on a daily basis.

They also say that the incidents are all different. Is that true? It seems that they fall into categories, but the common denominator is easy access to guns with massive fire power, unleashing lethal force in a split second, before anyone can react, not even the "good guys."

Sandy Hook's tragedy was at such an unprecedented scale, people were sure that lawmakers would finally be moved to enact commonsense protections like restriction on assault-style weapons, making trafficking and straw purchases a felony, and universal background checks closing the gigantic loopholes that 40% of all gun sales fall into.

Yet even though 90% of Americans say they favor universal background checks, including the vast majority of NRA members and Republicans, Congress is apparently not weary enough of senseless tragedies. The only "sensible" gun violence prevention measure they have managed to pass just renews the existing and outdated ban on firearms that can pass undetected through airport X-ray machines.

But the NRA and the gun violence advocates won there, too, by managing to defeat any update that would take into account new technology like 3-D printing. So basically the ban - and all screening devices - are rendered impotent to stop someone from bringing a gun on a plane, to a courthouse, to a school or religious center, or government building, including the Capitol Building or White House.

And they don't care.

The New York Times reported this week that about 1,500 state gun bills have been introduced since the Newtown massacre - 178 passed at least one chamber of a state legislature. 109 have become law. But of these, astonishingly, 70 actually expand gun rights, only 39 enact sensible gun violence prevention measures. " Most of those bills were approved in states controlled by Republicans. Those who support stricter regulations won some victories — mostly in states where the legislature and governorship are controlled by Democrats — to increase restrictions on gun use and ownership."

New York State was one of the exceptions, passing the toughest gun control legislation in the country and this week, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) and State Legislators Against Illegal Guns (SLAIG) joined by national, state, and local elected officials and gun safety advocates called on Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence.

“New York’s families and neighborhoods are safer because our state passed the strongest gun's laws in nation," Governor Cuomo said. "Although it is difficult to think that one year has already passed since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook, the best way to honor the memory of those we lost is to take action to prevent future senseless violence. By working together, we were the first state to enact sensible gun control laws, after Sandy Hook, which keeps guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, bans assault weapons, limits high capacity magazines and increases the penalty for killing a first responder.”

“Has a year lessened the horror of witnessing 20 innocent elementary school children and their teachers being violently murdered? Certainly not. This week marks not just the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, but the 20-year mark of the LIRR massacre, a seminal event for all of the nation’s suburbs. That horrific event shook the nation two decades ago,” Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, the Co-Chair of State Legislators Against Illegal Guns, said. “So what does our nation have to show in terms of a sensible legislative agenda to reduce our gun violence? Not much. There is lots of talk in Washington, but no action. By contrast the NY SAFE Act passed with bipartisan support helps to give NY the 4th lowest gun death rate in the nation.”

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett said, “We remember not only the 26 innocent victims from Newtown, but the 31,000 Americans who die each year from gun violence - that’s 85 people a day. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York passed the SAFE Act, making it the first state to take decisive action after Newtown. We know that strong gun laws reduce gun death and injury which is why New York has the fourth lowest gun death rate in the nation. Now we need Congress to follow New York’s lead to protect all Americans.”

SLAIG Co-Chair Assemblymember Brian Kavanagh said, “This somber anniversary is a reminder of the ongoing gun violence crisis in our country. Of course Congress ought to act and the failure of some of our leaders in Washington to recognize that is disheartening. While we renew our call for strong, sensible national laws, we also want to shift some of the focus to the states. We’re calling on our colleagues in the legislature in each state to take the lead and pass laws mandating background checks for all gun sales, tougher restrictions on assault weapons, and other laws we’ve successfully enacted here that will save lives.”

Congressman Peter King (R-LI) said, "This Saturday will mark one year since the senseless shooting at Sandy Hook. It is wrong that Congress has failed to act after so many lives have been lost. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to see action, and we owe it to the victims and their families to prevent such tragedies from occurring again."

This month is not just the one-year anniversary of Sandy Hook. It is also the 20th anniversaryof the Long Island Railroad massacre.

Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-LI) said, “For gun violence prevention advocates, December is a particularly difficult month because of the anniversaries of two tragic mass shootings, the incident on the Long Island Railroad in 1993 and, most recently, the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. New York State has often been ahead of the curve on gun violence prevention and the most recent legislative accomplishment, the passage of the NY SAFE Act, is no exception. Too often it takes great tragedy to address long overdue national reforms, especially when it comes to the issue of gun violence. It is my hope that the United States Congress will follow New York’s lead and see the merits of tightening gun violence prevention laws nationwide now, rather than suffer through more senseless and preventable tragedy.”

Immediately after Sandy Hook, Obama convened a commission, headed by Vice President Joe Biden, to come up with recommendations. In January, Obama signed 23 executive orders to improve information sharing and the existing background check system, clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes; offer incentives to schools to improve security, bring mental health coverage to parity.

And then the Senate rejected the Manchin-Toomey bill, despite overwhelming support, largely because of lies circulated that it would create a federal registry (prohibited) and would enable the federal government to confiscate guns (also prohibited).

The NRA stepped up its opposition - even orchestrating the recall of two Colorado legislators as payback for the state adopting gun control legislation (that's the same state that had Colombine, Aurora, and now the latest school shooting).

In August, Obama issued two orders: One ends a government practice that lets military weapons, sold or donated by the U.S. to allies, be reimported into the U.S. by private entities. The White House said the U.S. has approved 250,000 of those guns to be reimported since 2005, guns which typically are 50 years old or more; under the new policy, only museums and a few other entities like the government will be eligible to reimport military-grade firearms.

The Obama administration is also proposing a federal rule to stop those who would be ineligible to pass a background check from skirting the law by registering a gun to a corporation or trust. The new rule would require people associated with those entities, like beneficiaries and trustees, to undergo the same type of fingerprint-based background checks as individuals if they want to register guns.

Predictably, even this modest "regulation" prompted the NRA to react: "Requiring background checks for corporations and trusts does not keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. Prohibiting the re-importation of firearms into the U.S. that were manufactured 50 or more years ago does not keep firearms out of the hands of criminals. This administration should get serious about prosecuting violent criminals who misuse guns and stop focusing its efforts on law-abiding gun owners."

They are in that whole class of people who suffer from mental illness, who conspire to commit suicide by cop, or just take out their delusions on random people, like constituents greeting Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, in the US Navy Yard, at Sandy Hook elementary school.

Meanwhile, Obama is also making good on his promise to address mental illness.

This week, Obama proposed a new $130 million initiative in the 2014 Budget to address several barriers that may prevent people from accessing help. The initiative proposes to train teachers to recognize signs of mental illness and refer students to mental health services when needed. It supports the training of an additional 5,000 mental health professionals. And it would give grants to states to implement innovative strategies to help young people ages 16 to 25 with mental health or substance abuse issues. The Administration continues to call on Congress to appropriate funds for these important purposes.)

A tactic of the NRA and gun advocates is to shift focus from the guns to mental illness, while at the same time aggressively opposing provisions that would keep guns away (or confiscate guns) from the mentally ill or domestic abusers, and they don't much like lists that might keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists either.

But just as gun-lovers like to say that 96% of gun-owners are law abiding, 96% of people who suffer from mental illness are law abiding.

The problem is the 4% of gun owners and the 4% of mentally ill who have easy access to lethal weapons.

But doesn't it make common sense that it should not be so easy to obtain WMD? You can't eradicate mental illness - you can't even identify it in many cases until it has been unleashed in horrific ways - but if you could minimize the damage, the senseless tragedy, wouldn't that benefit communities?

Why do we all have to live in fear every time we send our kids to school, to the movies, the shopping mall or college campus, or if we go out to a town hall meeting to be confronted by some intolerant zealot who thinks that his rights are somehow more valid than anyone else's.

A large majority of Americans, including gun owners, support passing sensible measures to reduce gun violence, says Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty. Here are a few ways we could have a significant impact on curbing gun violence:

➨ Pass universal background checks - 9 out of 10 Americans agree that we should have universal background checks. Background checks work to keep guns from easily falling into the wrong hands.

➨ Close the gun show loophole - Around 30% of all trafficked guns are sold through gun shows. In some cases, guns sold here are sold without critical background checks, making it easier for convicted felons and other prohibited purchasers to buy firearms. Closing the gun show loophole would help prevent that.

➨ Ban high-capacity magazines - Large capacity magazines are simply unnecessary for hunting or home defense and should be prohibited.

➨ Make gun trafficking a federal crime - Nearly 60% of the nation’s guns used for criminal activity come from just 1% of gun dealers. We need to strengthen our laws and finally make gun trafficking a federal crime.

President Obama, who had called Sandy Hook the worst day of his presidency, on the one-year anniversary said, "As a nation, we can’t stop every act of violence. We can’t heal every troubled mind. But if we want to live in a country where we can go to work, send our kids to school, and walk our streets free from fear, we have to keep trying. We have to keep caring. We have to treat every child like they’re our child. Like those in Sandy Hook, we must choose love. And together, we must make a change."

See also:

Sandy Hook anniversary, LI gun control activists take on gun rights advocates

Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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© 2013 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com or email krubin723@aol.com. 'Like' us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

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