When we wrote two weeks ago about the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School we held some hope that, in light of this incredible tragedy, the National Rifle Association would take a responsible stand. The organization had been strangely silent about the massacre for days and we thought perhaps the NRA had seen the light.
In a pathetic press conference, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
LaPierre had no suggestions how to keep assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. But he did talk about the National School Shield program in which the NRA would help to put armed security guards in schools throughout America.
Every school in Nassau County, even those that already have armed security guards, should tell the LaPierre, no thanks. The county does not need the help of his organization.
If there had been an armed security guard at the Sandy Hook school, he or she would have been the first to get to get blown away. Adam Lanza was carrying a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round clip and was wearing a bullet-proof vest. He also had the element of surprise.
The brave teachers at Sandy Hook did exactly what they had been trained to do. They led the children go to the safest place possible, locked the door and waited for the police to come. They probably saved lives. We hope that every school on Long Island is as well prepared.
We didn’t expect LaPierre to call for legislation limiting the sale of guns. Although the NRA represents nearly 5 million gun owners, it increasingly promotes the agenda of manufacturers and retailers. But he might have said that no home with a family member battling mental illness should keep a gun of any kind. Keeping the guns under lock is not sufficient.
There have been reports that Lanza’s mother was growing more and more concerned about her son’s mental illness. There should not have been a gun of any kind in her home.
The Bushmaster appears to be the gun of choice for mass murderers. On Christmas Eve William Spencer used this gun to kill two firefighters after setting his house on fire. Spencer had served 18 years in prison for beating his grandmother to death with a bat. Police are still trying to figure out how he got his hands on this weapon.
James Holmes used a Bushmaster when he opened fire in a Colorado movie theater. And the Beltway assassin used a Bushmaster, which is a demilitarized version of the M16 used by American soldiers.
Like LaPierre, Ssate Sen. Jack Martins is also concerned about the effect of violence in media and video games. He noted that parents across the country were lining up to buy their children copies of violent video games such as “Call of Duty” for Christmas.
“I am not blaming the entertainment industry for the violence we see around us. I believe in personal responsibility and accountability, but have we ourselves become desensitized to the violence?” Martins asked. “Surely I can’t be alone in wondering.”
But Martins, a Republican, then went to the next step. He said the state’s “laws are circumvented regularly by those who merely travel to states with less stringent gun laws and bring them back illegally.”
“The bottom line, he said, “is that gun ownership is a tremendous responsibility, yet our country has yet to treat it as such.
“The hodgepodge of laws that have barely been cobbled together reflects that. And, despite some of the strongest gun laws in the country, the proliferation of illegal guns in our state is sad testament to that same fact.”
To their credit, aayors Ralph Kreitzman of the Village of Great Neck, Matthew Bloomfield of Russell Gardens, Jean Celender of Great Neck Plaza, Ronald Cooper of Lake Success, Susan Lopatkin of Kensington and Marvin Natiss of North Hills joined mayors from across the country in signing an open letter to President Obama asking for changes in gun laws on the national level.
“Together, we urge you to put forward an agenda that is rooted in common sense and that will make it harder for dangerous people to possess guns, and easier for police and prosecutors to crack down on them,” it said in part.
The mayors endorsed Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D-Mineola) Fix Gun Checks Act, which would require background checks for gun sales from private sellers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
We also believe that the culture of violence needs to be addressed. But the more pressing problem is how to keep assault weapons out of the hands of dangerous people like Lanza and Spencer.
Apparently, the NRA has no intention of helping.