September 21, 2013
Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist, killed 12 people at the Washington, D.C. Navy Yard, September 16. Alexis was shot to death by police. Already there are renewed calls for gun control legislation, which will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears.
The Navy Yard killings is the latest mass shooting in the United States. Consider the following mass shootings since February 2012: On December 14, 2012, 20 children and 7 adults were killed by Adam Lanza at the Sandy Hook Elementary School; on September 27, 2012, Andrew Engeldinger killed five people at the Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis; on August 5, 2012, Army veteran Wade Michael Page killed six Sikh temple members at Oak Creek, Wisconsin; on July 20, 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 28 at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado; on May 29, 2012 Ian Stawicki killed five people at Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle; on April 6, 2012, Jake England and Alvin Watts killed five black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma; on April 2, 2012, One L. Goh killed seven people at Oikos University in Oakland; and on February 27, 2012, Thomas Lane killed 3 students at Chardon High School in Ohio.
The U.S. has far more gun-related killings than any other developed country. Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than someone in another developed country. It is estimated that by 2015 shooting deaths will exceed auto deaths.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings where 20 school children were killed, there was hope among gun control advocates that a tipping point had been reached and Congress would finally be ready to pass meaningful gun control legislation.
It was not to be.
Legislation strengthening background checks — supported by 90 percent of Americans — was defeated in the Senate 54 to 46, six votes short of the 60 needed. The vote on the ban on dozens of military-style assault weapons was also defeated by a vote of 40 to 60; a bipartisan amendment to stiffen penalties for “straw purchasers,” 58 to 42; a GOP-backed amendment that would have permitted “national reciprocity” of state-issued concealed carry permits, 57 to 43; a GOP plan to extend gun rights for veterans, including those deemed unable to manage their financial affairs, 56-44; and a Democratic amendment to limit the size of ammunition magazines, 54-46.
Even if this legislation had passed the Senate, it would never have passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Would this legislation, if passed, have prevented the Navy Yard mass shooting? Maybe, maybe not. But meaningful gun control laws once on the books and vigorously enforced, over time might temper America’s long-held affection for firearms and finally drastically reduce gun-related killings.
Given the failure at the federal level, gun control is now left to the states. We now have a hodgepodge of state laws, some stringent and some very lax. For example, California has some of the strongest gun control laws. But in Nevada, individuals can legally sell a firearm to another resident at a gun show for cash without exchanging paperwork or conducting a background check. This makes it easy for criminals to purchase guns and bring them into California. That’s why we need federal gun control laws.
Already victims’ relatives and relatives of other mass shootings are again calling for federal gun control legislation. But such efforts are doomed because too many legislators are overly responsive to the National Rifle Association lobby, in tandem with gunmakers and arms importers, military sympathizers, and far-right organizations.
And members of Congress remember the recent recall of two Colorado state legislators for their votes in favor of gun control.
After all the sound and fury over the Navy Yard mass shootings dies down, the cycle of killings, hand wringing, and mourning will continue ad infinitum.