March 30, 2011
Needed: Three Forms
of Gun Control
By Mike McManus
Exactly 30 years ago, John Hinkley Jr. nearly assassinated
He also gravely wounded Jim Brady, Reagan’s
press secretary, who is now partly paralyzed, blind and has screaming
nightmares every night. Hinkley shot a Secret Service agent, who dived
across the President and was hit in the stomach, plus a D.C. cop who
suffered permanent nerve damage and was forced to retire.
Sarah Brady, wife of Jim, says, “It’s hard to
believe how much our lives changed in those few seconds.” Jim still
undergoes physical therapy several times a week, speaks with a slur and
lives in a wheelchair.
Supposedly, Hinkley is a patient at St.
Elizabeth’s, a facility for the criminally insane. Yet he gets 10-day
unsupervised visits to his mother in Williamsburg.
April 16 will be the fourth anniversary of
the Virginia Tech massacre of 32 people by a fellow student, Seung-Hui Cho.
On April 3, 2009 another mass shooting killed 13 people at a Binghamton, NY
immigration center. America leads the world in such mass murders.
In January, Jared Lee Loughner shot Rep.
Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, killing six of them. In fact, more than
2,400 Americans have been shot dead since that horrific crime in Tucson, and
400,000 have died of gunshots since Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King
were assassinated in 1968.
Can this horror of gun violence be reversed?
First, it must be noted that of the 30,900
firearm deaths in 2006, the most recent year with complete data, there were
16,900 suicides, 55% of the total! (A future column will explore how to
Here are three suggestions on how to reduce
gun homicides dramatically. Each will require laws that has been blocked
for years by the National Rifle Association. However, recent events give
good reason why new federal laws could be passed.
The first should be easy to pass - ban “high
capacity clips.” Loughner would not have been able to fire 31 rounds in
seconds if he had not been able to purchase a magazine with 32 shells that
could be fired without reloading.
One bill in Congress would limit an
ammunition magazine to 10 or fewer bullets. It has 114 sponsors in the
House, most of whom signed on after a fellow Member of Congress was nearly
killed by Loughner. Even Dick Cheney, a hunter and NRA backer, now
concedes, “Maybe it’s appropriate to reestablish” limits on “the size of the
magazine that you can buy to go with semiautomatic weapons.”
Yet, as of this writing, President Obama has
been strangely silent on the issue.
The limit on gun magazines was part of an
Assault Weapons Ban passed by Congress in 1994 after years of lobbying by
Sarah Brady and her Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
The bill should have been renewed in 2004,
but President Bush did not have the courage to do so. Why should any
American be able to buy an AK-47, TEC-9s or .50-caliber sniper rifles?
These weapons have nothing to do with hunting. They are for killing.
My second reform would reinstate the whole
Assault Weapons Ban. Even the Brady Campaign thinks that is too ambitious.
It could not find enough sponsors.
Why not? There is a fear conservatives will
Surely Scripture is clear: “Thou shalt not
kill.” Conservatives respect Scripture.
Finally Congress should pass the “Fix
Gunchecks Act.” It would plug loopholes in the Brady Handgun Violence
Protection Act that requires background checks of gun buyers. The law has
prevented the sale of guns to two million people who were considered too
dangerous or irresponsible to possess firearms.
But the law does have serious loopholes. One
allows guns to be sold at gun shows without any background checks – where
about a third of guns are purchased. Another allows states to decide how
many records are turned into the feds. Millions are missing. Arizona should
have sent in 122,000 names of felons, drug abusers and mentally incompetent
people between 2008 and 2009 -- but submitted only 4,465, according to
Neither Loughner, a drug user nor Cho, with a
history of mental illness, should have been able to purchase firearms. If
high capacity clips were unavailable, Loughner would not have been able to
shoot so many people.
However, none of these three reforms will
become law – unless President Obama champions them. His reticence is
Rep. Giffords, who is slowly recovering, will
keep the issue visible.