Will We Learn From the Charleston Killings?

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Crime, Opinion, Politics

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Published on June 28, 2015 with 12 Comments

Oil on canvass illustration courtesy Michael D'Antuono.

Oil on canvass illustration courtesy Michael D’Antuono.

By Ralph E. Stone

June 28, 2015

Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year old white supremacist, is accused of murdering nine worshippers at the historic Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C.  President Obama called the shootings “senseless murders” and suggested more gun control is needed in the wake of the tragedy.

But in this violent nation of ours, there seems to be a disconnect between our Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms” and the number of mass killings in this country. Americans with guns kill thousands of fellow Americans each year.  And remember, the right to bear arms is not unlimited and does not prohibit all regulation of either firearms or similar devices.

Incongruous though it might be, while Charleston and the rest of the nation are mourning the dead, at the same time Charles L. Cotton, a National Rifle Association (NRA) member, was blaming one of the slain, Clementa C. Pinckney, a pastor and state legislator, stating, “And he voted against concealed-carry. Eight of his church members, who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church, are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”  Does anyone really believe that if the worshippers were “packing heat” at the church, the shootings would have been prevented?

It took the the December 2012 killing of 20 children and seven adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School to reach a tipping point, causing reasonable gun control legislation to be proposed at the federal level. However, Congress failed to reinstate the assault weapons ban.  Other legislation failed to pass, including tougher laws on straw purchases and illegal gun trafficking, efforts to increase school safety, keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, universal background checks, and restrictions on the size of magazines so as to reduce the number of bullets that can be fired before reloading is required.

Will the Charleston killings be another tipping point, providing the impetus for actual passage of reasonable gun control legislation at the federal level?  Certainly, there will again be calls for federal gun control legislation, but unfortunately such efforts will probably be doomed because too many members of Congress are obligated to the NRA lobby, in tandem with gunmakers and importers, military sympathizers, and far-right organizations.

And after all the sound and fury is over, the cycle of killings, hand wringing and mourning will likely continue ad infinitum.

Ralph E. Stone

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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