Viewpoint: Guns again and again and again. Demand action to end gun violence

Karen Rubin, Columnist

On National Gun Violence Awareness Day, Friday, June 4, U.S. federal judge Roger Benitez overturned California’s 32-year-old ban on assault weapons, declaring, “This case is about what should be a muscular constitutional right and whether a state can force a gun policy choice that impinges on that right with a 30-year-old failed experiment.”

Benitez added, “Like the Swiss army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”

Tell that to the TSA which considers the Swiss Army knife dangerous enough to take down a 747. And nobody uses an AR-15, a weapon of war used in the Tree of Life and Aurora massacres and a favorite for mass murderers, for home defense.

On that same day, three were shot dead and multiple people injured at a graduation party in Miami-Dade and two were shot dead in Austin; WearOrange weekend to remember the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to gun violence, 43 were shot, five killed in Chicago and a 10-year old boy was killed in a Queens shooting that was believed to be connected to a parking dispute.

In less than 200 days of 2021, there have already been more than 200 mass shootings.

Perhaps you noticed New York landmarks in orange but it is hard to pay attention or even keep track – gun violence has become ubiquitous, a public health epidemic. Was that Atlanta? Boulder? San Jose? Miami? Chicago?

I’m sick of awareness. Demand action.

Despite managing to enact some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country since the Sandy Hook massacre of six-year-olds and their teachers, New York state and communities across the country have seen an increase in gun violence since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as statewide total reported crime remained near historically low levels in 2020.

Experts have cited a confluence of factors: unemployment, closure of schools and other essential programs, and isolation from family, friends and support systems, as well as social unrest in communities.

But I would suggest it is because guns are everywhere – easier to get than a mail-in-ballot, even in states like New York with tough gun control laws.

Americans are gorging on gun sales – 1 million background checks in a single week this spring, with estimates of some 400 million in civilian hands, the New York Times reported – a figure that becomes scarier with the rise of White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis calling for “Second Amendment solutions.”

“Gun violence is a uniquely American tragedy: Americans are killed by guns at a rate 25 times higher than that of other high-income countries, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said. More than 14,000 people are murdered each year; 23,000 more commit suicide –guns are so much more efficient killing machines than pills.

None of the gun safety measures that are being proposed violate anyone’s Constitutional rights – but voting and reproductive rights are also in the Constitution and these gun nuts have no problem legislating against both. Reminder: the first “inalienable’ right is to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – not to have life stolen just by going to work, the mall, the movies, school or church or driving on the highway.

My head explodes when after every one of these shootings, there is the quest to uncover a “motive” or get into the mind of the killer. The only common denominator is the ease and availability of guns and ammunition.

And even as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gleefully signed the most restrictive abortion ban in the country, denying women their constitutional right of self-determination and is salivating to sign the most restrictive voter suppression laws in the country, denying the constitutional right to vote, he has just signed a bill allowing anybody to carry a concealed handgun, without registration, license, or training.

Tally the cost of “Guns Everywhere” policy: schools, workplaces, religious places, shopping malls must spend millions of dollars for security that is impossible to provide; millions of dollars to investigate, prosecute murder and mayhem, billions on funerals and injury, lost productivity and lifelong misery and suffering. Everytown estimates the annual cost of gun violence at $214 billion. And for what?

Guns everywhere also play a role in police shootings because police assume a suspect has a gun and shoots first.

“Thoughts and prayers are not enough — we need to respond to these tragedies with action,” Coons said. Common-sense gun safety legislation such as the NICS Denial Notification Act and Background Check Expansion Act is supported by 93% of Americans.

But though Republicans have blocked even this sensible gun safety regulation, it’s not enough. Buying a gun should be at least as hard as getting an abortion or voting. This is what is needed:

• The federal government should use its power of the purse to require gun manufacturers make Smart Guns – guns that can only be fired by the registered owner – for all guns purchased for the military and law enforcement. Require manufacturers to incorporate microstamp technology so guns used in crime can be more easily traced.
• Universal background checks; end the three-day maximum after which the purchase can be made (arbitrarily imposed by George W. Bush’s Attorney General Ashcroft)
• Ban assault weapons, high-capacity ammo, bump stocks.
• Tax the purchase of guns and ammunition to establish a Victim’s Fund and to repay municipalities for using tax revenues to provide security to schools, houses of worship, shopping malls, concert venues; public meetings
• Require gun owners to purchase special liability insurance.
• Require proper security of guns in the home; make parents, guardians liable for criminal prosecution (negligent homicide, reckless indifference) if a minor uses the gun to commit injure themselves or others.
• Require gun owners to be licensed, certified to have gone through training and registered.
• End online purchase of guns and ammunition; require all purchases to go through licensed and regulated dealers that are regularly audited and only allowed to operate in permitted areas.
• Make creating or possessing ghost guns a felony.
• End immunity for gun manufacturers that market guns for “sport” and “hunting” when they are designed solely to kill human beings.

EndtheFilibuster

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