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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Weapons of Mass Destruction

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The first time I saw presidential candidate Barack Obama in Milwaukee, in April 2007, he suspended politics for a day of prayer and reflection for the 33 people who died in the mass murder/suicide on the campus of Virginia Tech.

Last week President Obama did exactly the same thing after 12 more people were murdered and 58 others wounded in another human massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

A fat lot of good all that thoughtful, national reflection has done.

In the five years between those horrific events, neither President Obama nor anyone else in American politics has done a single thing to stop mass murderers from easily acquiring weapons specifically designed to kill human beings in large numbers.

It's an utter failure of politics by both major parties. And nothing will change until every intelligent American who knows better takes a stand against political cowardice.

It's not a question of constitutional rights.

For 10 years, after President Bill Clinton signed an assault weapon ban into law in 1994, it was illegal in this country to sell 19 different types of semi-automatic, military-style guns and ammunition clips with more than 10 rounds.

Even an extremely conservative U.S. Supreme Court found no basis to consider any constitutional challenges. After all, when the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was written, weapons that would allow an individual to mow down scores of people in a movie theater within minutes hadn't even been invented.

In 2004, Republican President George W. Bush intentionally let the 10-year assault weapon ban expire. The Republican leadership in Congress didn't even schedule a vote.

As a result, James Holmes, the accused Aurora shooter, had their blessing to buy four guns, including a military-style assault rifle, 6,000 rounds of ammunition and a drum magazine that could shoot 50 to 60 rounds a minute.

There's a reason some guns are called assault weapons. They are not intended for self-defense. Even the most paranoid gun owner has no need to prepare for a possible attack on his home by an army.

Such weapons are not used for hunting. Shooting off 6,000 rounds of ammunition at a clip of 50 to 60 rounds a minute would pretty much clear all wildlife, trees and fellow hunters.

Target practice? Good luck finding the target afterward.

Such weapons have only one purpose: mass murder. And the use of them for their intended purpose is becoming routine in this country.

Avoiding Responsibility

It wasn't just those deaths in Aurora that were heartbreaking. So were the tortured statements by both President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney carefully avoiding any responsibility for their own politically motivated decisions to do absolutely nothing to try to prevent such carnage.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney signed a permanent assault weapon ban. But like other good things he did back when he was claiming to be more liberal than Ted Kennedy, Romney now opposes similar protection for the rest of the nation.

White House spokesman Jay Carney even used the tragedy to gratuitously reiterate the president's support for “common-sense measures to protect the Second Amendment (gun) rights of Americans.”

Even though, sad to say, Obama hasn't done a thing as president to reduce the spread of deadly weapons including assault weapons, Republicans have kept up a steady drumbeat accusing him of plotting secretly to confiscate the guns of all Americans.

Republicans have no qualms, of course, about saying things that aren't true. But the real question is: Why haven't Democrats and even intelligent Republicans proposed doing something sensible to keep guns that fire 50 to 60 rounds a minute out of the hands of murderers?

Clearly, Democrats have decided it's too politically dangerous. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was pretty much a lone voice among national figures in demanding the candidates for president even address the issue.

Bloomberg and a group of big-city mayors, including Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, are among the few elected officials with the courage to speak out against guns intended for mass murder because of the bloodshed on their own streets.

Other Democrats are too terrified of being considered anti-gun to do anything. The political grip of the National Rifle Association over Congress is so powerful that not even the shooting of one of Congress' best-loved members could crack it.

And Republicans exploit every tragedy with the absurd suggestion we'd all be safer if everyone in a darkened movie theater would simply stand up and return fire.

Where does that leave the overwhelming number of Americans intelligent enough to recognize the insanity of allowing individuals to acquire weapons of mass destruction to publicly murder as many people as they choose?

Our leaders won't lead until we all stand with Mayor Bloomberg to demand political action to prevent mass murder, whether ignorant people like it or not. 

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