Monday, January 14, 2013

Lead Poisoning

I must admit that I'm surprised the discussion on gun control continues.  I had expected two, maybe three weeks of coverage after the Connecticut Massacre and then our notoriously short attention spans would be attracted to the latest issue, like the debt ceiling.  Yes, there are lots of electrons and ink being spilled on the tussle between Obama and the GOP, but gun control issues continue to be discussed.

I suspect a large part of the reason for the continued attention is that the NRA and its merry band of crazies just won't shut up on it.  David Horsey also noticed that.

Supporters of gun rights make a fair point when they insist that guns are not the sole cause of the problem. They are very likely right that the ultra-violence in movies and video games inspires already troubled young minds to re-create bloody fantasies in real life. And they are right that something must be done to stop those warped-minded individuals who pull the triggers before they can do their evil deeds.

But the gun rights folks seem incapable of acknowledging that guns are part of the problem too. There are mentally deranged people and violent entertainment and video games in every developed country, but only in this one is there such frequent carnage. The one factor that is different is that, in the United States, there are as many guns as there are people.

This would suggest that it is at least worth considering measures that would make it more difficult for the wrong people to get hold of weapons. Yet, when better background checks or tighter regulation of private gun sales are proposed, too many gun enthusiasts immediately start screaming about confiscation. They insist that any step toward better regulation of firearms is an unthinkable slide toward a Stalinist world of gulags, government tyranny and defenseless citizens. ...

In recent days, a tenured communications professor at Florida Atlantic University, James Tracy, wrote several blog posts that suggested the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown may well have been a staged event with actors hired by the Obama administration and orchestrated to provide a pretext for pushing gun control.

Now, that is about the most crazy and obscene allegation that has ever oozed from the right-wing blogosphere. But when the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported about the professor's theory, quite a few readers called and emailed the newspaper to defend and applaud Tracy’s ideas.

This explains why laws that would keep guns out of the hands of crazy people are opposed by many firearms fans. So many of them seem to be totally nuts.   [Emphasis added]

Well, that and the fact that the NRA in conjunction with their buddies who sell guns and ammo want NO restriction on guns.  Zero.  Nada.  No matter what they say when called to task for what some of the clearly deranged mouth off.

Swept along by the tide of outrage and sorrow after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, Congress passed a law to try to prevent future tragedies by keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
The measure, signed by President George W. Bush, promised to strengthen the 14-year-old National Instant Criminal Background Check System by establishing incentives and penalties to prod states to submit records of people legally barred under federal law from buying guns — including those who had been committed to mental institutions.

But today, that promise remains unfulfilled. More than half the states haven't provided mental health records to the federal database that gun dealers use to check on buyers. And the gap in dealing with the mentally ill is just one of myriad problems that have hampered background checks. ...

The background check system, which became effective in 1998, was part of a 1993 law that prohibited people from possessing guns if they were convicted of a felony, addicted to drugs, committed domestic violence or were involuntarily sent to a mental institution.

Gun rights organizations, including the National Rifle Assn., have fought expansion of those checks. Though the NRA says it supports making sure the names of "violent schizophrenics" are in the database, the group also made it tougher for states to comply — by successfully lobbying for a provision in the 2007 law that requires an appeals process so the mentally ill can seek to have their gun rights restored. States must set that up before they can receive federal grants to help collect records.  [Emphasis added]

If the NRA will balk at denying guns to the mentally ill, they will surely balk at measures which limit the size of ammunition magazines, the bulk sales of ammunition over the internet, the banning of civilian purchases of military style semi-automatic weapons, even though most Americans think all of those ideas are pretty sound, if only a minimalist start.

So, will we get at least something out of Congress on the issue?  Sadly, it's pretty hard to tell.  In fact, it might be pretty damned difficult.  Mike Luckovich shows us why.

(Mike's cartoon was published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on January 11, 2013.  Click on image to enlarge and then add your congress critters' office numbers to speed dial.)

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