After January 8th’s Tucson shooting, there have been multiple discussions. A good deal of those have revolved around the issue of gun safety, gun regulations, and what might be worth proposing to lessen the deadly impact of guns especially guns ending up in the hands of unstable individuals. Gun regulation often becomes a heated conversation especially when 2nd Amendment rights people on one side clash with those who want increasingly tougher gun laws to the point of “jeopardizing” those 2nd Amendment rights. Most in the middle have pointed to small steps that adjust an ultimate freedom to being able to handle guns to putting a few guidelines in place to allow not just anyone from purchasing and carrying a gun.
Since the shooting, members of Congress who serve the New York/New Jersey area have spoken out in various ways to improve gun safety and potential laws they would like to see passed in the near future. One such member, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), has made his intentions known that as Congress gets back to business; he will introduce a resolution that echoes much of what was in the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004. Lautenberg is not alone in regard to this measure as New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY4) is expected to introduce a similar bill in the U.S. House. Both Lautenberg and McCarthy will be two at the forefront working to create a tougher atmosphere for gun owners so only those who deserve to have a gun are able to. Furthermore, there is a right to “bear an arm”, but in all honesty, do the majority of Americans truly need multi-magazine semi automatic guns like the one used by Jared Loughner in Arizona?
Taking the matter further, New York Congressman Peter King (R-NY3) expressed a need to introduce legislation that protected members of Congress and those who wish to attend town halls and other public gatherings involving their member of Congress from the threat of an attacker with a gun. Like what Lautenberg and McCarthy plan to introduce, King’s potential legislation has the makings of causing a stir from those against gun regulations. Members of Congress are pressed from time to time for having one luxury or another. However, something like King’s potential legislation speaks more to public safety for not just the member of Congress, but so many who do attend public events. There have been photos and videos over the last two years that feature a clip here and there of someone with a gun over their shoulder or in clear view. At times, it looks like people are either “protecting” their gun or simply expressing their ability to carry a weapon to a public place if the law permits them to. King’s legislation exposes a glaring problem: public officials allow themselves to be in the open and not throughly protected; especially considering that there is a possibility that they may be a threat, like Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ8) was, depending on their notoriety.
Now, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has joined the conversation from a different angle. Schumer is calling upon the Obama administration to move forward with a policy that checks into military rejections based on the health of an individuala. Schumer would like to see a policy that requires the military to inform the FBI if someone is rejected for excessive drug use or other glaring issues. Schumer is not proposing something hollow because Loughner was rejected by the military largely due to a failed drug test and having his name on some list would have made it harder for him to obtain a weapon. Echoing what hurdles await Lautenberg, McCarthy, and King; Schumer is well aware that public and political support for such a measure could be tepid at best.
In all three cases, Republicans are standing by their “bread and butter” and not wanting to overreact and change gun control laws and regulations in a “knee-jerk” reaction. They are preferring to not put a great deal of attention on gun safety and point more towards mental health studies. There is no doubt that mental health analysis and focusing on threats like Loughner with mental health issues is something that has to be improved. But, this unstable man was still able to purchase a gun and walk into Walmart hours before the shooting and purcahse gun ammo.
Schumer, while on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, expressed,
“Let’s be honest here: There haven’t been the votes in the Congress for gun control. We’re looking for some things where we can maybe find some common ground.”
That common ground is definitely something to build on if both parties are serious about statements made over the last week to attempt to work more in a bipartisan manner. There are members of both parties who certainly feel improvements can be made. It is about standing up to those conservative-based groups who push against any type of gun regulations or reform. Democrats have been leery of upsetting rural voters, who might be more inclined to own or want to purchase a gun.
Lautenberg and Schumer’s Senator colleague, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), was one of those in the GOP echoing a shift towards focusing on mental health and not so much on gun safety. However, in his comments this weekend, Coburn even states that “a mentally deranged person..had access to a gun that should not have had access to a gun.” It would seem that since Loughner was able to obtain access to a gun speaks to the need to analyze what Lautenberg/McCarthy and Schumer are proposing.
Additionally, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA) embraced measures and discussions already started by these members of Congress. Rendell, a frank orator, jumped right to the point with,
“We need a rational discussion on guns, where we put aside the pressure from interest groups and we take a look and say, ‘Does any citizen protecting themselves or their home or using a handgun to hunt, do they need a clip that has 33 bullets in it?’ And the answer is, ‘Of course not’.”
Rendell’s comments might truly send the message home. It might truly wrap up what Lautenberg and McCarthy are working on. It might give some perspective to a supporting argument to Schumer’s proposal. What these multiple members of Congress and even a former governor are saying is beyond some political statement. It is more about taking an event and using it to serve as “the final example” from a series of previous events. There must be an honest and challenging argument over what can be done to change the current gun regulations, laws, and safety standards. It is not taking something away, but protecting everyone from dangerous threats. It is time to stop holding back from pragmatic points of view and work towards and address what these elected officials have outlined.