Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Something Must Change on Gun Safety.

In recent days, there has been renewed discussion on matters of gun safety. And for the first time in nearly two decades, there have actually been promises of real action. Americans have grown increasingly weary of seeing their communities transform into "armed battlefields".

But sadly, some here in Nevada would rather not be part of the solution. And some seem to be in complete denial over what's wrong.

“Obama’s our best salesman,” Range 702 manager Michael Heck said. “Every time he says the word ‘gun’ on television, sales go through the roof.”

Sales have skyrocketed for military-style rifles in particular, such as the AK-47 and the AR-15, one of the guns 20-year-old Adam Lanza used at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 to kill 26 students and staff. More people also are signing up for firearms instruction and concealed-weapons permit classes.

Some customers said they fear for their safety after the latest U.S. mass shooting and want to protect themselves, the retailers said. But most cited a fear of increased government oversight and want guns that soon might be outlawed. [...]

In England, Las Vegas gun business received a rash of unflattering attention in the aftermath of Newtown, with several U.K. tabloids publishing stories about “shotgun wedding” services offered by The Gun Store and other shooting ranges. The services include a wedding ceremony, a session at the range and a chance to pose for photos with weapons, including Uzis and Thompson submachine guns.

The tabloids’ stories focused on the fact that no ceremonies had been canceled despite the Sandy Hook tragedy. As suggested by the Sun’s headline — “Guns 'n proposes: What hope for the U.S. when couples can now get married with weapons?” — the subtext of the stories was that the services symbolize an unhealthy obsession with guns.

“Draped in bullets and brandishing shotguns — like the one found in killer Adam Lanza’s car — couples in full bridal wear exchange vows at the Gun Store,” the Mirror reported. “They then go through to a marble-floored shooting range to fire off a few rounds. The bizarre chapel, in a gun-cleaning room decorated with red rose petals, an Uzi and a Tommy gun, hosts 10 weddings a month.”

Yes, yes, I've heard. "Guns are sexy. And guns mean business". Try saying that to the victims of this epidemic of extreme gun violence. The rate of Americans killed by guns is 19.5 times higher than that of other developed countries. Think about that.

That's why there's growing outrage over the NRA's planned closed door "seminar" with Nevada legislators. After so much bloodshed, why are Nevada lawmakers still showing so much fealty to the gun lobby? Some progressives have simply had enough.

Our leaders should act now to make it harder for dangerous people to buy guns and easier for police to stop them. A common sense public safety agenda includes legislation that will get military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines off our streets and require every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check.

The Newtown shooter was armed with enough ammo to kill every student at the school. He used an AR-15 military-style assault rifle to kill the children -- a weapon that could be covered by a strong new assault weapons ban. In Nevada the shooter at the restaurant in Carson City in 2011 used an automatic assault rifle to empty three magazines in 85 seconds, killing four people, including three Nevada National Guard soldiers, and wounding seven other people.

Attending this gun lobbyist event would be a signal to all Nevadans of a willingness to continue to bow to the mythical power of the NRA, when what Nevada needs more than ever is the leadership to stand up to these lobbyists that have worked to make guns more available to shooters in the first place.

ProgressNow Nevada is asking lawmakers not to attend, and I can easily see why. While the entire rest of the country has been looking at common sense gun safety reform, the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby have offered nothing but dangerous delusions. And now, the gun lobby is threatening to blow up sensible reforms that a broad majority of Americans support.

A majority of Americans support strong, new gun control measures—including the assault weapons bans and broader background checks, according to a new ABC/Washington Post poll released Tuesday. The findings found broader support for gun control in the wake of the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., with 52% of people saying they supported further gun restrictions since the shooting.

Since the shooting that claimed the lives of 26 in Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been cracks in the NRA’s strength, with voices like Sen. Joe Manchin and Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough calling for gun control. Many have skewered the National Rifle Association for supporting assault weapons and limited background checks—something Scarborough says is a move to protect gun manufacturers, not Americans.

The NRA has responded by slamming the White House, claiming the administration is prejudiced against “honest, taxpaying, hardworking Americans” and blaming them “for the acts of criminals and madmen.” And many have questioned whether further gun control could pass in Congress.

The broadest support in the poll, however, came for mandatory background checks to purchase firearms at gun shows—88% of Americans polled said they supported that measure. Of those surveyed, 58% said they supported the expired assault weapons ban, while 39% opposed it.

Yet even as most Americans demand action, Congress may just sit on their hands. Last Friday on Vegas PBS' "Nevada Week in Review", Harry Reid urged "caution" in pursuing gun safety.

On one hand, I can see Reid's political concerns. Chief among them is whether or not an assault weapons ban and other more "controversial" (to the gun lobby, that is) gun safety measures have the votes to pass Congress. However, the American people are demanding action. And at some point, Congress has to respond with real action.

Yesterday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow talked to the parents of one of the children lost in Newtown last month.

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Can our federal and state lawmakers really look them in the eye and say that the wishes of gun manufacturers and retailers matter more than the lives of their kids? They should think about that. Perhaps Harry Reid has a point in allowing for more deliberation on this, but he knows that Congress hardly ever rushes to pass anything. Something must change.

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