Apr 10, 2013

Corpse Parade

Just before the tentative deal on gun measures came out this morning, this was announced:
Gun control supporters and survivors of gun violence are gathering Wednesday in the Capitol to read the names of the 3,300 killed from guns since the Newtown shootings and protest a potential filibuster of gun legislation.
While I sympathize with the families of those killed both in Newtown and since, they are being used as puppets in a partisan shell game, for many reasons.

There are times when a memorial reading of victims' names is honorable and worth the time. The annual reading of the names of the 9/11 victims at the World Trade Center site is a somber, helpful occasion. There is no agenda being advanced, no campaign being waged, and no political action committee members doing the reading. It is a memorial, pure and honest.

This is not.

It may not seem obvious, but what do the victims of gun violence since last December have to do with pending gun legislation in Congress? The major planks of the proposed legislation are strengthened background checks, magazine limits, and an amendment to ban cosmetic rifle improvements (aka, "assault weapons"). Do we know if the 3,300 victims were killed with modified rifles? Given the statistics, it's much more likely that almost all of them were killed with handguns, not shotguns, rifles, AR-15s, or other "weapons of war" bogeymen. Do we know how many of those 3,300 crimes were committed by people who had undergone background checks? Given the (false) 40% statistic we hear so often, we might assume that 1,320 of them were killed by people who didn't have a background check when they bought their gun (if they bought it at all?). 

That's the thing about gun control measures. Since gun ownership and possession is a guaranteed constitutional right, any legislation has to be limited. That also means its effectiveness is necessarily limited. Even though the full "assault weapons" ban was in place for 10 years from 1994 to 2004, there are questions about its effectiveness, since these weapons are used in relatively few crimes anyway. Limiting magazine sizes would also have a questionable effect since it would only matter in mass killings, of which there are even fewer (relative to total gun crimes).

Of course the 3,300 gun deaths since Newtown are tragic, as those at Newtown and Aurora were. Each and every one of them should be mourned and remembered, and their families should be embraced and supported by their communities. However, their names have nothing to do with the reality of the gun debate we're having as a nation. They are grossly being used as props by political organizations who already know that their proposals wouldn't even have stopped Newtown.

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