July 31, 2012
Businessman, philanthropist and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made his opinion known on the subject of gun control after the senseless massacre in Aurora, CO. An outspoken advocate for gun control in a state with arguably the toughest gun laws in the nation, it was no surprise he'd soon make his voice heard. Through radio, television, and the newspapers, he's urging the two major Presidential candidates to take a leadership role in America's gun problem.
"Somebody's got to do something about this," Mayor Bloomberg told Bob Schieffer in an interview for CBS' Face the Nation, which aired on July 22nd. "And it requires, particularly in a presidential year, the candidates for President of the United States to stand up once and for all and say, 'Yes they felt terrible, yes it's a tragedy, yes we have great sympathies for the families, but it's time for this country to do something.'"
"And that's the job of the President of the United States," the mayor continued. "I don't know what they're gonna do, but I think its incumbent on them to tell us specifically, not just in broad terms."
Really? President Obama and Governor Romney? The Mayor is a smart guy. He's a lot smarter than I am, but does he really believe that will happen?
Mitt Romney is going speak out? You mean the man who signed a bill banning assault weapons in Massachusetts, then appeared before the National Rifle Association vowing to protect their 2nd Amendment rights at all costs as he's running for President.
And President Obama? He's a Democrat and Democrats run from the gun control issue like scalded cats. And it's been longer than the three and a half years Obama has been in office. Some say it can be traced back to the 1994 mid-term elections when the Democrats took a butt kicking, courtesy of NRA-backed candidates.
I'm not saying Mayor Bloomberg doesn't have a point. He does. But we need to get serious if we want to know who's to blame for our failure to control our appetite for the gun. Then, we can fix the problem.
The knee-jerk reaction is to put all of the blame on the NRA and I'm also guilty of that one. But is it entirely true? Sure, they've been putting fear into any politician who even thinks of bringing up the gun control issue. And thanks to them, we have 25 states with "Stand Your Ground" laws or statutes, which allow any citizen legally carrying a weapon to shoot and kill another simply out of fear, real or imagined.
No they're not innocent, but...
And should we blame the politicians? Yes, you can say they don't have the courage to speak candidly on the issue. But you can also say we collectively don't have the sense to listen to the truth. We want to be told what we want to hear and they're all too eager to oblige us. Because they know they'll be punished at the ballot box if they don't.
Did you catch that? I just hinted at who I believe is to blame? Need another one? Quick, find a mirror and voila! There you are!
Yes, we are to blame. Collectively, if not individually.
According to Gallup, in 1996, 57% of Americans surveyed were for laws which would have made it illegal to manufacture, sell, or possess semiautomatic guns, known as assault rifles. In the same survey, 43% were against such laws.
However, in 2011, the numbers are virtually reversed, with 53% against such laws and 43% for them. With the amount of gun violence we've experienced in our country over this time period, these numbers are unbelievable.
Everyone has beautiful words of comfort and prayers for the victims. I'm no different. My heart goes out to all of the victims, both living and those who were lost. But are we really angry about what happened? If so, what are we going to do about it? Will the victims be forgotten while the killer lives on in infamy?
Will the NRA again be to blame? We're supposed to be adults, so allowing someone to make our minds up for us with multimillion- dollar, fear-filled ads is ridiculous. If we used our own intelligence, their campaigns would be trumped by our common sense.
Will we blame the politicians? Who would stick his or her neck out for a policy "we the people" aren't really in favor of? Some would. Most won't. So that makes us all ultimately guilty for the carnage caused by our failure to craft a sane gun control policy or to enforce the laws already on the books.
I'm not one of those people who wants to eliminate the 2nd Amendment from the United States Constitution, thereby erasing responsible gun ownership. Such an attempt wouldn't get ratified, anyway. It also wouldn't completely eliminate gun violence. I'm not wishing for a utopia because it doesn't exist.
But what's wrong with doing what we can to reduce it? Is it wrong to restrict the massive firepower of assault weapons to trained law enforcement officers and our military personnel? And is it really unconstitutional to prevent anyone from purchasing 6,000 rounds over the Internet without question?
Maybe the next time this happens, you'll have to make a decision of which family member you can save first as the bullets fly. Or you'll have to use your body as a human shield for your loved one. Or maybe you'll be forced to cradle your infant daughter or son as you leap from a balcony to safety during the next armed assault by a crazed maniac.
And we should all believe there will be a next time in America's Slaughterhouse.
Lawrence D. Elliott is an author whose work has appeared in many popular books and publications, including 4 books in the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A native of San Diego, California, he's lived in Germany since May of 2011. Visit his website at http://www.lawrenceelliott.com