WASHINGTON — Gun control is coming. The only question is how many more tragic deaths must pave the way. For now, another father’s anguished voice demanding congressional action to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill is unlikely to move lawmakers who are more responsive to the National Rifle Association than their constituents. “When will this insanity stop?” Richard Martinez pleaded after the death of his 20-year-old son, Christopher, at the hands of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who killed six people before turning a gun on himself in a murderous rampage last Friday in Isla Vista, California.
Rodger documented his intentions in a chilling You Tube video, and also laid out in a 137-page manifesto his grievances toward women that prompted what he called his “Day of Retribution.” The manifesto details his shopping spree for guns, how he weighed the characteristics of various handguns and settled on the Glock 34 semiautomatic pistol, “an efficient and highly accurate weapon,” he wrote. “I signed all of the papers and was told that my pickup day was in mid-December.”
According to the Violence Policy Center (VPC), the Isla Vista shooter owned three 9 mm semiautomatic handguns, including two Sig Sauer P226 pistols and the Glock 34. “After I picked up the handgun, I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power. I was now armed. Who’s the alpha male now . . . ?” he wrote.
The VPC points out that both Sig Sauer and Glock are “Corporate Partners” of the NRA, meaning they give substantial amounts of money to the gun-rights group. Semi-automatic weapons are commonly used in mass shootings, and efforts to more tightly restrict their use or legislate a ban have gone nowhere in a Congress where members fear the power and the money of the NRA.
After 20 first graders and 6 educators were killed at Sandy Hook, there was the expectation that the event was so horrific, lawmakers would have to do something. Requiring universal background checks seemed the most minimal thing, and yet that failed. Action then moved outside of Washington with several citizens groups springing up and former New York City Mayor Bloomberg among others bankrolling their efforts.
Building a gun safety lobby to rival the NRA will take time, and in the meantime, there will be more of these horrifying incidents. Why do they happen? It’s a combination of failing to properly recognize and care for the mentally ill, together with the easy acquisition of lethal weapons. Semiautomatic firearms, once confined to the battlefield, are now aggressively marketed for civilian use.
Sooner or later, even the politicians will come to their senses and decide to become statesmen. Guns are out of control in this country, and the American people by margins of 70 percent favor the common sense background checks that the Senate failed to pass last year. Republicans filibustered the legislation and President Obama was unable to persuade four red-state Democrats to take what for them would have been a tough vote to break the filibuster.
If it were possible to take the partisanship and the emotion out of the issue, and to step back and craft a sensible approach to gun ownership in America, there’s an obvious solution. We would have gun registration and licensing of gun owners, treating people who own and use these potentially lethal instruments the same way we treat the ownership and use of cars. The NRA could take a leadership role, holding classes for young and old, men and women, on responsible gun ownership and safety. Registering a weapon and getting a license the way we do with cars would in no way infringe on anyone’s rights and would protect the rights of law-abiding citizens who are caught in the crossfire of a political debate that should be over.
U.S. News Syndicate Inc.