Registered: Nov 1999
07-23-12 03:07 PM
WASHINGTON -- The national sense of outrage swiftly passes. That's the lesson of American gun tragedies past.
In January 2011, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) barely survived being shot point-blank in the head by a man who emptied his 30-round magazine into 19 people, killing a federal judge and five others.
It's hard to imagine an incident that would be more likely to advance the cause of gun control in Washington. But nothing happened.
President Barack Obama called for a national dialogue, but didn't lead one. Gun-control Democrats proposed banning high-capacity clips, like the ones Giffords' shooter used, but their bills went nowhere.
The gunman who opened fire in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater Friday morning, shooting 71 people and killing 12, is said to have been armed with two handguns, a shotgun and an assault-style rifle, some of which were presumably equipped with high-capacity clips. "There were many, many rounds fired," Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said at a Friday press conference. "We know there were a lot of rounds fired very rapidly."
The message here should be clear, said Kristen Rand, legislative director for the Violence Policy Center, a group opposed to gun violence. "You put a military level of firepower in the hands of civilians, and this is the natural result," she said. "The lesson that other countries have learned is that you have to restrict access to these instruments that allow people to inflict so much injury and death so quickly."
Specifically, Rand said that "high-capacity magazines, whether they're in a pistol or an assault rifle, are the common thread in every major mass shooting in the U.S. going back to the early '80s."
But many politicians are responding to the shooting with pieties rather than policy proposals.
According to Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, there isn't anything wrong with showing sympathy, but there has to be more. "You have to question how genuine that sympathy is if it's not accompanied by talk about solutions to the problem."
Opponents of gun control have a powerful rhetorical argument in their arsenal. "The gun lobby is very effective at saying that 'Now is not the time to exploit these events for political purposes,'" Rand said. "Their goal is to delay so that the pressure comes off of policy makers, the immediacy fades and everyone turns their attention to something else."