Monday, February 4, 2013

Son of a Gun

Last weekend, we saw some troubling news out of Texas. Yep, there was yet another shooting.

Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and author of the best-selling book American Sniper, and a second person were shot and killed Saturday at a gun range in Erath County, U.S. Marshals said.

Late Saturday, Lancaster police arrested a man who they say matched the description of a man wanted in connection with the slayings. After a brief chase, officers arrested 25-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, according to Lancaster police spokesperson Kelly Hooten.

Reporting on the shootings, the Stephenville Empire-Tribune said Erath County Sheriff Tommy Bryant would not discuss the victims. But the newspaper said that a source working at Rough Creek Lodge, which has a gun range at which the newspaper reported the slayings occurred, confirmed that one of the victims was Kyle.

WFAA-TV (Channel 8) reported that Kyle was shot point-blank while helping another soldier who is recovering from post traumatic stress syndrome.

This guy was a former Navy SEAL. He was highly trained in armed combat. And he was killed at a gun range. It just goes to show how no one is really immune from this kind of danger.

Against this saddening backdrop, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally came forward with his own plan to tackle gun safety reform. Fortunately, Reid's bill addresses a number of issues, including magazine capacity & universal background checks. However, there is one thing notably missing from Reid's bill.

An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sketched out a plan for post-Newtown legislation to the paper that includes a lot of stuff gun control advocates want — but left out the ban.

“The bill would likely seek to limit the capacity of ammunition magazines; expand background checks to include sales at gun shows and other private transactions; and require better record keeping to keep guns out of the hands of those with mental illnesses,” the story said. “It would also try to curb gun sales in states with more relaxed gun laws to buyers in states with stricter laws.”

On ABC’s This Week on Sunday, Reid said he’ll allow amendments on a gun bill giving Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the sponsor of the new assault weapons ban in the Senate, a chance to include it in a final package. But Reid was noncommittal on whether he’d vote for Feinstein’s ban (he’s voted against bans before), and repeated his promise to move a gun bill he thinks the Republican-controlled House could actually pass. That likely means no assault weapons ban.

So at least Senator Reid has finally put something on the table. And to his credit, he's ignoring the gun lobby's bullpuckey and proposing common-sense items that are wildly popular. However, he still seems to be afraid of the Assault Weapons Ban that President Obama, his good friend Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), and at least 58% of Americans support. Why is that?

Why are military grade weapons OK for regular civilian exposure? How are they necessary for hunting or recreation? Remember that these assault weapons are specifically designed to kill masses of people in very little time.

But an assault weapons ban is designed for an entirely different subset of homicides. It targets the mass shootings that have occurred roughly once per month since 2009, according to the Mayors Against Illegal Guns data.

When assault weapons or high capacity magazines are used in a mass shooting — 23 percent of the time since 2009 — more people are shot and more people are killed.

Mass shooters who use an assault weapon or a high capacity magazine shoot more than twice as many people than those who use handguns, according to the MAIG data. The data also shows them to be 54 percent more lethal.

This chart shows the average number of casualties at a mass shooting event since 2009. When a shooter doesn't use an assault weapon or high capacity magazine, he or she shoots 7 and kills 5.4 people on average. When a shooter is using a high capacity magazine or an assault weapon, he or she shoots 15.6 and kills 8.3 people on average.

And that's just the start. There's even more data pointing out the need for complete gun safety reform. And President Obama perhaps hit on the most easily understandable reason today in Minneapolis.

President Obama on Monday reiterated his call for a ban on assault weapons during a speech in Minneapolis, saying, "Weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools or threatening our law enforcement officers."

"Our law enforcement officers should never be outgunned on the streets," Obama said.

Think about it. Why are these military grade weapons on the streets, in schools, in houses of worship, in shopping malls, or anywhere else other than a war zone? When did we start living in war zones?

Why is this even controversial on Capitol Hill? We all know the answer (3 letters: NRA), but it's still so nonsensical. And even Reid's more conservative bill may still be "too much" for House Republicans. No really, we still don't know yet of House Speaker John Boehner will allow a floor vote on any kind of gun safety reform.

The House GOP leadership has not said whether it will allow votes on either the trafficking or background check proposals. So it needs to be reiterated that these are both no-brainers that don’t infringe on the rights of the law abiding and are supported by law enforcement. Hopefully we’ll soon see more leadership like that shown here by Rep. [Scott] Rigell [R-Virginia] from a handful of other House Republicans.

As unlikely as it might seem that these two proposals could ever get through the House, it is premature to write them off as completely dead. And if they both pass, that would constitute passage of two thirds of Obama’s gun control agenda —and would amount to a major achievement, with or without any assault weapons ban.

Even with a couple smaller bills attracting bipartisan support, we don't know yet what can pass Congress. How many more deaths must occur before they start waking up & smelling the bloody reality out here in the real world?

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