In a very interesting historical article, The New York Times looked back several decades and uncovered some important context about gun control in America.
A very young president was murdered in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald purchased a mail-order rifle for $19.95, plus shipping and handling. John F. Kennedy was his victim.
On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down at a motel in Memphis. Nine weeks later Senator Robert F. Kennedy was fatally wounded in Los Angeles.
John Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, “a master of turning tragedy into legislative gain,” used the death of the president to push through Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation. He then set his sights on gun control.
“The voices that blocked [gun control] were not the voices of an aroused nation. They were voices of a powerful lobby, a gun lobby, . . .”
Nevertheless Johnson was able to win approval of legislation that outlawed gun sales to several groups: felons, drug abusers, minors and those who are mentally will. It banned most out-of-state and mail-order sales. And it curtailed the importation of guns, including “cheap, tiny pistols used in many homicides.”
King’s assassination along with riots that took place in Washington “spurred” further efforts by Johnson to tighten gun control laws.
Johnson wanted to treat guns like cars: “They would be registered and their owners would be licensed.” Passage of this law would have been a landmark achievement and the US “might look more like Britain or Australia where guns are tracked and gun violence is a fraction of what it is here.” Alas, the legislation could not muster enough votes in Congress.
This year legislators did not feel the same urgency as Johnson. They debated with themselves and with President Trump, but ultimately caved to the N.R.A. It should be noted that the murder rate has “fallen sharply” since the 1960s. However mass shootings are all the rage threatening young people in schools, concerts, nightclubs and theaters.
A smaller percentage of American households now own guns, but the country has a greater number of them. Unfortunately these include many more semiautomatic rifles, the mass murderer’s weapon of choice.
The fact is that most Americans want more gun control. In the meantime a large number of Americans respect the right of their neighbors to own guns. Why can’t safeguards be enacted without violating the Second Amendment? Why do some gun enthusiasts and the N.R.A. object to common sense legislation that would make children and all other Americans a little bit safer?
The objective of gun legislation is not to take guns away from law-abiding people. It is to decrease the amount of violence in the country and make everyone more secure. It is true that humans are responsible for using guns nefariously. The N.R.A. keeps telling us that guns don’t think and break laws, and shooters are the culprits.
All this philosophical debate is moot. Proposals to ban semiautomatic weapons are wise and will save lives if enacted. These weapons are manufactured to kill humans, not deer and birds.
We should also ban large magazines that hold many bullets. This will make it more difficult for murderers to increase their kill count. Why does anyone need to shoot 20 or so bullets in less than five seconds, unless they are hunting humans?
We should ban bump stocks, which enable rifles to shoot like automatic weapons.
If we increase the age to buy guns to 21 we will be putting weapons in the hands of more mature people. It might have an impact.
If we increase the vetting process (time and depth) to buy guns, it will make it more difficult for an unbalanced person to attack others in a current fit of rage.
As I review these items I see no reason why a reasonable person would object. Gun owners will still be able to buy as many guns as they want to hunt, shoot at targets and protect themselves and their families.
The youngsters who protested against guns changed the calculus. The N.R.A. is not omnipotent any longer. Yet the Second Amendment will persevere.
Let’s do it now America. Let’s try to stem gun violence with common sense legislation. We should not wait for the next crime against humanity.