More gun laws are not the answer

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The issue of gun control has come up again recently, with the president and a number of his supporters in Congress proposing drastic measures. A former chief of staff for President Obama, Rahm Emanuel, famously said to "never let a catastrophe go to waste." The current administration has taken heed of this philosophy and used the Newtown school massacre to propose a number of measures they say are urgently needed in order to prevent another mass school shooting.

I have gone to the White House Web page, and that of Sen. Feinstein, the Senator who introduced the bill, to see what it is they are proposing. Nothing I saw regarding firearms would have prevented Newtown, nor would it prevent another similar incident, in my opinion. The proposals I saw, in fact, have nothing to do with school safety and everything to do with the anti-gun crowd that has been pushing their own agenda for decades.

They claim this ban on assault weapons will keep them out of the hands of criminals. We already have laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. If one is a criminal they cannot possess any firearm by federal law. The recent school shootings were not done by convicted felons.

In my opinion, the office of the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, is responsible for putting more guns in the hands of criminals than anyone I know through the "Fast and Furious" operation. It is widely believed that by helping promote Mexican drug gang violence through illegal transfer of a few thousand firearms, they would be able to use that as an excuse to enact a sweeping ban on those weapons in the United States. But they got caught when some of those weapons were used to kill law enforcement officers in the U.S., and they have refused to cooperate fully in the congressional investigation of the operation.

And now Sen. Feinstein, with her sweeping proposal to ban assault weapons, has caused more citizens to legally purchase weapons in a short span of time than anyone I can remember. I believe that is substantially due to her definition of an assault weapon.

The definition of an "assault rifle" is a shoulder fired, select fire [capable of semi-automatic, burst and full automatic fire] rifle that uses a detachable magazine and fires an intermediate cartridge. Assault rifles are the standard issue rifle in most modern armies, including the U.S. military's M-16 and its variants.

You can't just walk down to the local gun dealer and purchase an assault rifle. They want you to believe they are banning those weapons from the general population by using the term "assault weapon," and make regular reference to "military assault weapons" in an effort to tie the two together, but they are different weapons.

AR-15s are semi-automatic rifles designed to look and feel like an M-16, but they are still just semi-automatic rifles.

But this is all beside the point. They claim to be doing this to prevent school violence. School violence in the form of mass casualty incidents has been going on for a long time. Just a few examples:

On Jan. 11 in Columbia, S.C., a boy armed with a gun killed one of his schoolmates and severely injured several others in retaliation for bullying. The year was 1890.

In Bath, Mich., the school treasurer killed his wife, and then drove to the school where he planted a bomb in the basement and detonated it, killing 38 people -- mostly children. He then pulled up to the school in his car where he set off another bomb, killing himself and four additional people. The year was 1927.

In 1933, in Downey, Calif., a man shot and killed his wife and 8-year-old son at Gallatin Grammar School. He also shot at his other son three times before killing himself.

In 1940, in South Pasadena, Calif., former principal Mr. Spencer shot six school officials, killing five and wounding the sixth, before attempting suicide.

The Cologne school massacre in 1964 involved a homemade flamethrower, trapping students in classrooms and killing 11 and severely injuring 22 other people.

As you can see from these examples, the types of weapons used and their deployment are various and determined by the perpetrator's overall plan. Nor is this sort of thing restricted to the United States. It happens around the world. The only thing common among these examples, and virtually every other example I found, is the mental state of the perpetrator.

Instead of attempting to push their anti-gun agenda under the ruse of school safety, Washington should for once address the real problem and only that problem. What's needed is a serious attempt to come up with a plan to identify these sorts of people and deal with them before they resort to the same sort of cowardly act that we have been seeing happen across America, and the world. And they shouldn't clutter up this chance to get something done by mixing all of these other issues into it.

Finally, Mark Mattioli, father of James Mattioli who was slain in the Newtown massacre, recently testified before a gun violence task force in Hartford, Conn., that new gun laws are not the answer. They would do nothing to prevent this sort of thing, and there already are plenty of gun laws on the books that just need enforced.

What is needed, according to Mr. Mattioli, is a way to promote civility in our society once again, and a way to identify people who are potentially heading toward a similar act and intervening to stop them, redirecting them to alternative methods of dealing with their issues.

Gary J. Schaaf is the sheriff for Perry County, Mo.

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