The gun control debate once again has entered the political arena in the week following the shooting of an Arizona congresswoman and on Friday a Democratic lawmaker released the text of a bill that would ban high-capacity ammunition clips.
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) said she would introduce a bill next week that would outlaw the transfer, importation or possession of high-capacity clips – those that hold more than 10 rounds – that were manufactured after the bill was enacted. The bill also would ban the transfer or importation – but not possession – of high-capacity clips manufactured before the bill was enacted, a provision that goes further than the 1994 federal assault weapons ban and that was considered a loophole in that law. Under the legislation’s provisions, violators could face up to 10 years in jail.
McCarthy has been considered one of the strongest gun-control advocates in Congress. Her husband was murdered and her son was seriously injured in 1993 when a gunman opened fire on a Long Island commuter train. That gunman used a high-capacity magazine just like the alleged Arizona shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, used when he shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head, wounded more than a dozen and killed six at a constituent event Giffords was having.
“The United States Constitution guarantees to our citizens the right to keep and bear arms,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to her colleagues that accompanied the bill. “At the same time that we can all acknowledge this basic right, I believe that we should also be able to come together to develop reasonable laws designed to ensure that the right to bear arms is exercised safely and responsibly.”
GUN CONTROL BIPARTISANSHIP
The Democratic congresswoman was not the only lawmaker who planned on introducing gun control legislation since the shooting. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said he would introduce a companion bill to McCarthy’s in the Senate. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) also introduced legislation that would keep violent criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining guns. Ackerman’s bill would prevent recently unlicensed gun dealers from selling guns without first performing background checks on the buyers.
“After this weekend’s tragedy, it’s clear that Congress must close troubling loopholes in federal gun control laws that let firearms fall into the hands of convicted felons, fugitives, domestic violence perpetrators and severely emotionally disturbed individuals,” Ackerman said in a statement. “Every gun sold should require a background check, period.”
Since 1994, licensed firearms dealers have been required to perform background checks on all potential gun buyers; however, if they lose their license they can move their business inventory into their private collection and would not be required to do background checks. Ackerman’s legislation would close that loophole.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) also planned on introducing legislation that would make it illegal to bring a gun within 1,000 feet of a government official – it already is illegal to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. He said his legislation would not only help protect elected officials but also the people who go to their public events.
“The fact is they do represent the people who elect them, and it’s essential, if we’re going to continue to have contact, that the public who are at these meetings are ensured of their own safety,” King said.
Even though both Democrats and Republicans have introduced these bills, any type of gun control legislation would have a difficult time getting through the 112th Congress with Republicans in control of the House of Republicans and having larger numbers in the Senate. In an early showing of how difficult it would be, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he probably would neither support McCarthy’s bill nor King’s bill.
RIGHTS ARE NOT UNLIMITED
Now, the Second Amendment does give every American the right to bear arms – although the actual intentions of what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote that could be up for debate. Going along with the most common interpretation in that everybody can own a gun, though, that does not mean there cannot be limits or common sense applied to that right.
Just like the Supreme Court said free speech was not unlimited and that people falsely could not yell fire in a crowded theater, so too should the Second Amendment have its limitations. There is no need for the average citizen to carry a gun that can shoot 33 bullets without having to reload. As McCarthy said, the only reason to have that ability is to kill people.
“The only purpose for the existence of these devices is to be able to shoot as many people as possible as quickly as possible,” she said. “There is no reason that these devices should be available to the general public.”
Loughner used a high-capacity magazine and about 20 people died or were injured before he was stopped while trying to reload. If he had fewer bullets, fewer people would have gotten hurt – basic math proves that.
It has been reported that Loughner also was turned away from the Army for drug use, and classmates and professors thought he was a disturbed person. Guns can be dangerous enough even in the hands of someone who knows how to use them, so it stands to reason allowing an insane, troubled individual get a hold of one would not make things any safer.
There is wide consensus that certain countries should not get their hands on nuclear weapons because it would make our country and the world less safe, so should there not be wide consensus that being able to shoot off 33 rounds without reloading would make citizens less safe too. Surely the 20 people and their families who were wounded or killed last weekend would have wished he had fewer bullets.
Closing some of these loopholes in our country’s current laws should be nowhere near a partisan issue. Gun control is not saying you cannot own a gun. What it is saying is there should be better screening before being allowed to purchase a gun and that once a gun is bought it should not be used in a way that is basically for one purpose: killing others. Both parties should be lining up to co-sponsor some of the gun control legislation that has been proposed because they are about one thing: protecting the lives of the American people, nothing more and nothing less.
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