By Patrick Maillet, Columnist
Published February 14, 2013
A teacher once told me that our government only acts in response to a terrible event and that the true goal of the U.S. government isn’t necessarily to be proactive, but effectively reactive.
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Perhaps this mantra is true for what America was supposed to be — for what our forefathers truly envisioned as a more perfect union. But unfortunately, in the dawn of the limitless campaign fundraising age, where bipartisanship is a surefire way to be unelectable, our government no longer runs on reactive logic, but instead on out-of-touch political idealism perfectly structured in order for politicians to remain in power.
Seventy-two days ago, 26 innocent people were slaughtered in Newtown as a result of government negligence and a lack of logic.
I must admit, when I first heard about the shooting in Newtown, Conn. I said to the friend who had told me of event, “How many were killed this time?” The moment the words came out of my mouth, I felt a sickness within my body. How have we come to the point as a society where we simply expect these types of ruthless acts of aggression to be a normal event and that there’s nothing that can be done to prevent them?
Immediately following the massacre, like many other gun-control advocates, I was pleased to see the possibility of actual legislation being passed that would help prevent future gun violence.
Now, I am unfortunately being brought back to reality.
President Barack Obama’s original response to the Newtown shooting was a plan based upon four core elements: require background checks for gun owners, institute an assault weapons ban, limit the size of ammunition magazines, and conduct further research on mental health disorders and their relationship with gun violence.
Simply put, these responses are logical: They make sense, and they’re the essence of how a reactive government should function. After all, if you possess an instrument capable of causing mass death, shouldn’t the government make sure you’re capable of handling such a responsibility? Why do “sportsmen” need a weapon powerful enough to rapidly shoot at a rate of fire necessary only in combat? How could a hunter possibly need a 100-round magazine for anything involving legal activities? And why wouldn’t we look into the mental sicknesses that have caused countless mentally ill people to kill scores of innocent civilians?
For as simple as these questions may seem, they apparently are all too unconstitutional to even bring up with regards to gun control. Luckily, it appears that two of the four core elements will pass through Congress: background checks and mental health research. But even these weren’t passed uncontested by the National Rifle Association. Wayne LaPierre, CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, argued that background checks hurt small gun sellers. Regardless, these two elements of gun control seem likely to pass.
Unfortunately, an assault weapons ban and a limit on magazine size seem increasingly unlikely as both Democrats and Republicans begin to balk at the concept of limiting gun ownership and thereby be labeled an anti-gun legislator.
Obama reiterated his support for gun reform in his State of the Union Tuesday night, yet even then he refused to mention assault weapons by name and instead referred to “weapons of war.” This has a lot to do with many Congressional Democrats revealing they would not support the president in fighting for an assault weapons ban. Weapons like the AR-15, used by James Holmes in Aurora; commonly referred to by sportsmen as a “spray and pray” assault rifle, will almost certainly remain legal within the foreseeable future.
Although I was disappointed by Obama’s lack of acknowledgement toward an assault weapons ban, he at least honed in on the importance of gun control and made it a vital piece of his speech. Conversely, in the Republican response to Obama’s speech, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio dedicated a whopping 11 seconds to gun control and, in fact, didn’t even mention the word “gun.”
Instead, Rubio stated, “We must effectively deal with the rise of violence in our country, but unconstitutionally undermining the second amendment rights of law-abiding Americans is not the way to do it.”
Wow, I’m sure that’s just what the parents of Newtown, Aurora and countless other gun victims want to hear from their elected officials.
In the past 72 days, approximately 1,774 people have been killed in the United States as a result of gun violence. These people are the true victims of Newtown, because instead of learning from our mistakes and reacting accordingly, our government has remained stagnant and has allowed continuous innocent bloodshed. How many more massacres will it take for us to finally wake up and realize that maybe a society with 300 million privately owned firearms is not sustainable?
We have to start using logic when forming our gun policy. If not, and if we do not react accordingly to the deaths of 26 innocent children and teachers in Newtown, then they will have died in vain and we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
Patrick Maillet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.