Amidst all the fingerpointing surrounding the tragedy in Tucson last Saturday, a more significant issue is beginning to garner much-needed attention: sensible gun regulation. Because of the woefully inadequate gun regulations in Arizona, a mentally-ill man was able to procure a previously-banned weapon, leaving six dead and a gravely-injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) in his wake. The New York Times points out today that the “ludicrously thin membrane that now passes for gun control in this country” is due, in part, to the powerful gun lobby National Rifle Association (NRA) that “is striving for new heights of lunacy” in supporting guns on campus, in churches, in government buildings, in parks, in bars, and even in elementary school classrooms.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) gathered officials affiliated with his bipartisan Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition to outline “common-sense steps” to prevent such an incident in the future. The group offered a 40-step blueprint to crackdown on illegal guns without passing legislation last year. “The system that is supposed to protect us from dangerous and deranged people has failed once again,” Bloomberg said at today’s event. Frustrated by the NRA’s obstruction of “common sense things of enforcing federal laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals or young people is something they fight against,” Bloomberg explained that “responsible regulations” which are supported by NRA members do not jeopardize the Second Amendment but instead “protects it”:
BLOOMBERG: Rather than focus on the NRA — and I don’t understand why the common sense things of enforcing federal laws that keep guns out of the hands of criminals or young people is something they fight against. But the bottom line is if you want to protect the Second Amendment in this country, I would argue you should be for responsible regulations that every poll shows a majority of gun owners and NRA members are in favor of. There just are limits. You can’t scream fire as a joke in a crowded theater and there are just places we just shouldn’t have guns. That does not take away the first amendment, it protects it. That does not take away the second amendment, I think that protects it.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) joined Bloomberg at today’s event to offer “a conservative perspective” in favor of gun regulation. Viewing the lax gun control as a danger to “the fabric of society,” King pivoted away from a traditional conservative talking point to advocate for much-needed regulation, admitting “there’s a real role for the federal government” in gun control:
KING: Let me just say from a conservative perspective, we have to have a stable society, we have to keep crime down. You cannot do that if the police cannot be assured that you’re not going to have so many illegal guns out there. To have a stable and secure society we have to remove illegal guns. That’s not a liberal position, that should be a conservative position…To me, the thought that you can have illegal guns coming in from wherever, Virginia or whatever other state, the fact that you can have states where people can carry guns without any type permit and can’t be questioned or can’t be stopped, this to me undermines the fabric of society. So from a very conservative point of view of maintaining order, I believe its essential that we have these common sense regulations regarding guns, and there’s a real role for the federal government.
King, who announced a bill to ban guns within 1000 feet of federal officials, was “at somewhat of a loss” to explain why other Republicans don’t share his “common sense.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), for instance, dismissed Arizona’s weak gun laws as “unrelated to the shooting,” adding that “the weapons don’t kill people; it’s the individual that kills these people.” King attempted to defend such thinking: “Part of it is a cultural difference in other parts of the country where people are raised with guns in their home.” “I don’t think they think through the full consequences of what happen when there are no reasonable regulations on weapons,” King said. “They mean well.”
The NRA, however, dismissed any attempts to bolster gun regulation as improper. “NRA strongly believes that now is not the time for political debates or policy discussions,” a NRA spokesman told Newsweek and The Daily Beast. “Indeed, anything other than prayers for the victims and their families at this time would be inappropriate.” But with Congressional members promising to pack heat and sales of the assailant’s gun of choice now shooting through the roof in Arizona, a failure to push for responsible gun regulation would be more than inappropriate. It’d be a wholesale abdication of common sense.