The smoke had not yet cleared at the theater in Aurora, Colo., when the first new demands to restrict Americans’ rights made their way through the media.
It was predictable as October rain in Oregon.
The Brady Campaign demanded sweeping new restrictions on millions of Americans who had committed no crime. One local anti-gun group fired off an email calling for a ban on “assault weapon ammunition,” whatever that is.
Editorial after editorial decried Americans’ “love affair with guns” and the obscene power of the mighty gun lobby, whose actions, they said, were ultimately responsible for the mayhem.
An emotional response to this kind of carnage is understandable. Innocent men, women and children should not be risking their lives when at a movie theater. But as has been the case for all too many years, the gun-ban lobby ignores the facts in their tireless quest to punish the law abiding for the actions of the insane.
For more than 50 years, the gun banners have demanded more and more restrictions on individual rights. In many cases, they have succeeded. From the National Firearms Act in 1934 to the 1968 Gun Control Act to the Brady Bill to the NRA/Brady Campaign “NICS Improvement Act” passed in 2007, each new erosion of liberty was supposed to keep us safer by denying guns to criminals and the mentally ill.
But all ignored the simple reality that a determined, if deranged, person, can bypass any law created while they plan and execute their murderous rampages.
Clearly the Colorado shooter would have been unaffected by background checks, waiting periods and mental health records. His rampage was not a spur-of-the-moment response to some slight or insult.
Remember Julio Gonzales?
In countries that have far more restrictive gun laws than we do, mass killings take place in spite of every law and restriction created. More than 100 murdered in Norway by one man, almost 400 murdered in Beslan, Russia. Untold thousands murdered in Mexico with some of the strictest gun control in the world.
Prior to Oklahoma City, Sept. 11 and the killing of the Branch Davidians, the biggest mass murder in American history was committed by Julio Gonzales in New York in 1990. But you probably don’t remember his name because he does not fit into the scripted anti-gun narrative. Why? Because he didn’t use a gun. Gonzalez used one dollar’s worth of gasoline and a match. Where was the outrage that he had such easy access to such a dangerous substance?
Just as the assassinations of the ‘60s became the excuse for the 1968 Gun Control Act, the Oklahoma City bombing became the justification for the ban on modern rifles and the Trade Center attacks spawned the “Patriot Act,” poorly thought out (and often as not, never read) legislation becomes the knee-jerk reaction to every tragedy with immediate demands that we “DO SOMETHING” even if what we do does nothing to address the problem but simply sweeps more of our liberties into the trash bin of time.
The hand wringers will get more taxpayer dollars to have more “gun buybacks,” the politicians will create new and unenforceable regulations, and the talking heads will bemoan how violent we are. The thousands of incidents a year where brave Americans defend themselves and others will go virtually unreported by the media. The number of mass murders stopped by civilians with guns will continue to be ignored. The millions of firearms in the hands of law-abiding people, which have never been, and will never be, used in any crime, will continue to be demonized by people who simply refuse to accept the reality that bad things are done by bad people, and those of us who choose to keep defensive tools are no more evil or dangerous than those who fill their cars with fuel each day.
Those who are outraged at the power of the “gun lobby” continue to miss a fundamental point. The “gun lobby” is not powerful because of the political genius of the people who run the NRA. It is not powerful because of the great wealth of the gun makers whose financial resources are dwarfed by most other industries. The power comes from the vast number of Americans who have come to recognize that they are not the problem and should not be denied their rights as a result of the acts of a madman.
Those who seek to take the right and the means of self-defense away from Americans need only look to our southern neighbor to see how hideously failed, deadly and misguided their plans and polices could be.
Kevin Starrett of Canby is executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation.