September 5, 1949: 28 year old Howard Unruh kills 13 of his neighbors in Camden, N.J.
August 1, 1966: Charles Joseph Whitman kills 25, wounds at least 30 from the tower on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin.
In the late 1970’s the National Rifle Association shifted its focus from recreational hunting and gun safety toward efforts to halt gun control legislation. [NPR]
September 25, 1982: George Banks kills five of his own children and eight others in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
July 18, 1984: James Huberty kills 21 adults and children at a San Ysidro, California McDonald’s Restaurant.
January 17, 1989: Patrick Purdy attacked school children in Stockton, California with an assault rifle, killing 5 children and wounding 29 other people.
October 16, 1991: George Hennard smashed his vehicle into Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, then kills 23 people.
In October 1994 the New York Times noted the increased politicization of the assault weapons ban, and the NRA’s active promotion of the 2nd Amendment interpretation that ALL firearms are “protected.”
“Toner quoted NRA executive Tanya Metaksa as saying that the purpose of the NRA’s efforts to defeat congressional supporters of the ban was to defend “freedom and the rights of lawabiding Americans to own guns.” Toner then quoted an NRA ad targeting Kerrey, in which NRA spokesperson Charlton Heston addressed Kerrey on TV: “You said you wouldn’t vote for gun bans. But you went to Washington and voted for the first federal gun ban in American history.” [FAIR]
April 20, 1999: Eric Harris and Dylan Kliebold assault Columbine High School, Littleton, Colorado, 13 are killed, 23 are wounded.
April 16, 2007: Seung-Hui Cho opens fire on the campus of Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, Virginia, killing 32 people.
March 10, 2009: Michael McClendon, Kinston, Alabama kills 10 people including his mother, grandmother, his aunt and his uncle.
April 3, 2009: Jiverly Wong kills 13 people and injures four during an assault at a Binghamton, New York immigrant services center.
November 5, 2009: Major Nidal Hassan opens fire on the Fort Hood, Texas military base killing 13 and wounding 32.
January 8, 2011: Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ) was critically wounded at a Tucson, AZ supermarket parking lot. 18 others were wounded, and 6 were killed.
July 22, 2012: James Holmes kills 12 and injured 58 during his assault on an Aurora, Colorado movie theater.
Spare me the trite cliché that guns don’t kill people… Of course guns kill people, one look at the list should put that silly contention to rest. Even a cursory nod of even minimal attention at what is going on regarding the gang and gun violence in west Chicago should tamp that down. Some guns are designed and manufactured specifically to shoot people.
Spare me the dubious proposition that “cars kill more people.” Those who practice this line seem to forget that the states require drivers to pass examinations in order to drive cars, and that authorities are prone to suspend or revoke those licenses should the driver be exceedingly negligent or reckless.
Spare me the tortured legalisms of what the framers of the Constitution meant about an armed citizenry. I don’t care whether the comma in the 2nd Amendment infers arming only members of the National Guard is permissible, or whether it gives me permission to keep my Remington rifle. I do care about the small number of individuals in the list above who were able to do great violence and cause irreparable harm to all the victims numbered.
Spare me the rationalization about “When guns are outlawed…” No one in living memory has ever advocated disarming hunters, or even seriously suggested that people who have legitimate reasons for owning and carrying side-arms be repressed. Do we really have to defend the “right” of a drug trafficker to out-gun our law enforcement personnel?
Spare me the irrational suggestion that if every single individual in the United States of America was “packing heat” 24/7 lives might be saved. I’d suggest that those who advocate this position be the first ones called to respond to the families of innocent victims caught in the inevitable cross fire.
I live in Gun Country. I am a gun owner. I do not leave a loaded firearm anywhere accessible to children. I believe in trigger locks, gun safes, and locked up ammunition. Most of the people in this part of Gun Country do too. Some families with grown children don’t use gun safes, but do keep their firearms in locked gun cabinets. I’d be willing to hazard that 99% of the gun owners in this little corner of Gun Country follow gun safety practices which opponents of firearms would find quite acceptable.
Then there’s the 1%. Every village has its idiot. Every neighborhood has someone who has fallen for the hysterical hyperbolic ravings of anti-government — or at least anti-something — advocates who await the attack from black helicopters or blue helmets or Secret Police forces or the ATF or alien life forms. Some neighborhoods may even contain one or two individuals so convinced that they are about to be victimized by a nefarious burglar that it is felt necessary to arm themselves to the teeth. If the neighborhood is THAT dangerous it might be advisable to move?
A Civil Conversation?
If we could remove the fringe elements from both ends of the discussion could be have a proper and civil conversation about gun regulation as a matter of public health and safety?
Could we stop trying to equate 14 shot .22 rifles with AR-15 assault weapons? Could we agree that ammunition which is intended to penetrate the protective gear worn by law enforcement officers should not be readily available to every gang member or drug trafficker in the nation?
Could we agree that individuals with serious arrest records, a penchant for domestic violence, or a history of mental illness should not own their own armory?
Could we agree that it really isn’t necessary for a legitimate gun collector to be able to purchase more than 30 guns during a single month?
Could we agree that no gun sales should be allowed in the parking lots outside Gun Shows? Or, that the Gun Show loophole might be tightened?
Could we agree that the need for firearm regulation may assume different perspectives in urban areas than in rural ones?
Could we agree that we’ve had Enough Already! And for every villain named in this post we need to direct ten times that amount of attention to the needs of the victims? Needs for community counseling services? Needs for prompt and accessible follow up medical care after the ER? Needs for physical or psychological rehabilitation services? Needs for safer homes, safer schools, and safer public spaces?
Every time we go through one of the national tragedies such as those in the list we start to talk about guns and the American Way. And, then it seems that the irrational voices get the microphones and we leave the field to those who would demagogue the issues we need to discuss. Frankly speaking, the media isn’t much help. Handing over the microphones to the fringe elements may serve to crank up the volume and increase their circulation or ratings, but it doesn’t promote the kind of civil discussion and debate needed to find ways to improve both our public safety and the security of our public spaces.
We need to talk.