Former astronaut Mark Kelly’s testimony yesterday before an Oregon State Senate panel to support so-called “universal background check” legislation in the Beaver State once again relied on examples of crimes that would not have been prevented if the measure had been in place when the shootings occurred.
Mr. Kelly, testifying before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, observed, “The year before the Columbine massacre, Kip Kinkel killed two and wounded 22 others at Thurston High School, and just three days before the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, a shooter turned Clackamas Town Center into a place of terror and carnage.”
Northwest gun rights activists say it’s time to derail Kelly’s gun control road show. His testimony yesterday in Salem was very similar to what he said ten days ago in Olympia, with changes to localize his remarks. Watch his Oregon statement here and his Washington statement here.
Yet gun rights activists say the measures Mr. Kelly was supporting, Oregon Senate Bill 1551 and Washington’s Initiative 594, respectively, would not have prevented the shooting of his wife, former Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords because the measures are about background checks and the gunman who shot her and killed six others passed a background check.
Mr. Kelly should have done his homework before mentioning Kinkel and the May 1998 shooting in Springfield. Prior to bringing his guns to school, Kinkel murdered both of his parents, who were both educators. He drove his mother’s car to the high school and opened fire. He killed two students there and, as Kelly noted, wounded 22 others. The guns were purchased by his father, so a background check would have made no difference.
Jacob Tyler Roberts, the 22-year-old shooter at Clackamas Town Center, apparently stole the rifle he used from an acquaintance. No background check law could have prevented that.
In Olympia, he mentioned the Café Racer shooting. Gunman Ian Stawicki had passed a background check and the guns he had were legal. Kelly mentioned the Forza coffee shop shooting of four Lakewood police officers. Gunman Maurice Clemmons was a convicted felon. One of the guns he carried was confirmed stolen. He also stole the pistol carried by Officer Greg Richards after killing him, and that was the pistol Clemmons was carrying two days later when he was fatally shot by a Seattle police officer.
Mr. Kelly is hardly alone in building his arguments with references to crimes that would not have been prevented by the measure he was supporting. Other gun prohibitionists have been doing that as well in what activists say is a bait-and-switch political tactic.
It is a strategy that may be running out of steam. Insisting that a piece of legislation or an 18-page gun control initiative is a good idea while admitting that it won't prevent crimes, and acknowledging that it would not have prevented incidents used as examples to push such measures does not stand up under scrutiny. All it does is reinforce the image of clueless people feverishly insisting that "Somebody has got to do something!" Even if it amounts to nothing.