John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Sirhan Sirhan, Adam Lanza, Jerad Loughner, James Holmes, William Spengler. What do these infamous names have in common? It is list of insignificant losers who made a name for themselves by committing heinous crimes killing prominent people or innocent citizens and children. Instant fame by using a gun -- gun fame.
With the exception of the actor John Wilkes Booth, all of these people were leading failed lives with no personal power or importance. The squeeze of trigger changed all of that. Suddenly famous, their pictures spread across the media world to be remembered for years. To avoid punishment the killer often dies by his own hand thereby completing their insane plan.
Clearly, there is too much gun violence in the United States -- especially of the mass murder variety.
All of these nefarious characters had one thing in common: their instrument of destruction. A gun.
There are two essential components of these tragedies. First, a gun. The second is the wrong person holding the gun. The more capable the weapon the more damage can be done by that wrong person.
Only single shot pistols or rifles where available when the Second Amendment was drafted. The weapons of the day required a minute or two to load, were cumbersome and not very powerful or accurate. Today, weapons may fire as fast as a trigger can be pulled and for as long as 30, 40 or 200 rounds can be fired. And then reloaded in seconds. A single citizen of 2012 with a semi-automatic AR-15 would out gun a battalion of 1776 redcoats. No civilian needs that capacity.
Recently, I picked up a copy of Field and Stream magazine, the “Deer Issue.” There were no advertisements for military style rifles; no black gnarly looking weapons with large capacity clips. In fact, most weapon advertisements were for bows.
Bad guys without guns?
After the latest disaster, CEO and Executive Director of National Rifle Association, Wayne La Pierre, promised meaningful recommendations and came up with “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Apparently not considering what could happen if the bad guy did not have gun in the first place.
When David Gregory on “Meet the Press” repeatedly tried to have La Pierre commit to his statement that the NRA was willing to suggest “anything” to limit gun atrocities. La Pierre had not one suggestion which involved limiting purchase of guns, capability of guns or their capacity. La Pierre would support nothing that controls guns or access to them. But he readily pinned blame on our “collapsed mental health systems” which fail to screen out “lunatics”.
La Pierre put some blame on our media and gaming industries. I think there is merit to that idea. When children and young adults are riveted to gaming devices, playing vivid war games filled with imaginary killing sprees -- is it possible this de-sensitizes them to mayhem and killing? Also, too much of our TV and movie experience have guns prominently displayed with attractive people holding or firing aggressive military style weapons. The message is clear -- a gun makes a person powerful.
La Pierre’s one big publicized idea was to put armed officers in every school. So who pays? Would NRA pay for it? How about the school bus drivers?
Dealing with the two elements
As there are two essential elements to gun crime, how do we deal with them? The evidence is that most often the wrong person in these mass killings was not considered clearly deranged or dangerous enough to warrant investigation.
Therefore, beyond intrusion into mental histories, arming schools, workplaces and the general public, what is left? Only controlling access or the kind of weapons available.
What is referred to as an “assault rifle” is loosely defined, but there are certain common elements. First, it is semi-automatic, meaning each time the trigger is depressed a round is fired. (The Bureau of Tobacco and Firearms includes that the weapon be able to be fully-automatic.)
Second, it contains a clip or magazine which can be quickly inserted and more rounds fired. Some semi-automatic pistols have magazines of 30 rounds and there are 200 round clips available for some semi-automatic rifles. This kind of capability is for killing people.
Game hunter weapons
Game hunter rifles generally require that a new round must be inserted into the firing chamber by the manually using a bolt or lever. Generally, these weapons hold less than seven rounds. And can be fired at about one round every two seconds or so before reloading one round at a time -- which can take another minute or so.
Typically bird hunters use shotguns and some states require a plug insert to restrict the number or rounds to three or four shots (thus protecting the bird population, which is apparently more important than protecting the people population).
There is no one answer to stop these massacres which are sensational and then quickly forgotten. Any ideas to solve practical solution to this terror has to do with family upbringing, mental health, media, computer games, access to victims and removing the factor of instant fame.
And I submit that the media should refuse to publish pictures, or the name and information about the perpetrator. In other words, the killer would never achieve the fame he seeks,
The one essential which can be controlled in these recent mass killings is super capable weapons that the NRA will fight to keep. Unfortunately, the NRA has achieved fame by their political power and for making certain almost anyone can get an assault rifle.
It is time to recognize that high capability military weapons should not be in the hands of civilians.
Carrico is a San Diego attorney and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.