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Notes on the Unthinkable

December 19, 2012

newtownboysNewspapers and radio show that the sickening events of last Friday are still in the forefront of our collective minds and hearts. Families in Newtown still face each day without their beloved children.  The unthinkable, unbelievable, heinous crime has left us asking one question: how (the fuck) could this happen? What is wrong with our country? Below are links that I’ve found insightful and some of my thoughts on what guns and the Second Amendment means, and should mean, in our country and how we can move forward purposefully and productively, so as to honor the lives of those that have passed.

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One coherent and apparently effective policy proposal I’ve read comes from Richard Wright of the New America Foundation and at TheAtlantic.com. Essentially, he proposes that Congress ban all mechanisms that allow guns to fire more than six bullets without reloading bullets individually. That would require banning magazines that hold more than six bullets and guns with detachable magazines as well as speedloaders which can be used to rapidly reload revolvers. Considering the limits placed on gun regulation by the Supreme Court’s incorrect interpretation of the Second Amendment in Heller, this would be a not-obviously-illegal (though it’s difficult to make legal predictions when judges base their decisions on fabricated history – more on that in another post) regulation that could reduce the ability of mass killers to inflict inordinate damage before first responders arrived.

George Skelton echoes this in the LA Times, saying Congress should adopt California’s strictest-in-the-nation gun control laws, including a limit of 10 bullets per magazine.

Another idea comes from Elliot Spitzer, former New York Attorney General, who writes that we should regulate ‘bullet control’ in addition to gun control: “Let’s create a regime that makes sale of bullets to anybody not licensed to carry a gun illegal, makes resale illegal, micro-stamps bullets so they can be traced.” This would go far towards minimizing gun homicides generally, though would have to be paired with limits on total purchases of ammunition and background checks to affect mass killings.

On message boards, I’ve read proposals saying gun owners should be required to carry insurance, which in turn would invest insurance companies in preventing deaths or injuries caused by guns they’ve insured. This appears to be a good idea but may not practical in a way that complies with Heller, i.e. didn’t make gun ownership not financially possible for a significant portion of citizens.

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Considering the countless other people affected by mental illness and the utter saturation of guns in our society, no gun regulation will completely eliminate the threat of mass killings. Nonetheless, reducing access to guns, especially guns that can fire more frequently, can reduce the harm inflicted by mass killers. 22 children were injured in an attack at a school in China on Saturday; none were killed. The attacker was armed with a knife.

And don’t say that nothing can change, or any action is pointless, because there are too many guns already or we can’t change our culture. Australia reacted to a a mass killing in 1996 by implementing stricter gun laws and hasn’t had another mass killing since. Saying something is impossible when it is so obviously and painfully necessary – necessary to fulfill our most fundamental responsibility to our nation’s children – is more un-American than any gun control regulation could be. Each generation in this country has achieved things the previous didn’t think possible.

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Any gun control regulations should be crafted to also reduce the amount of what could be called run-of-the-mill gun homicides where a single person is killed with a handgun, which are a far more frequent cause of death than mass killings. As most know, America has the highest gun homicide rate of any developed country: approximately 33 people are murdered each day. That is just an unacceptable as the 27 people who were killed last Friday.

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 For the memory of the people who died, we have act to change this – we, the people. We have to agree that this is unacceptable and change, together, as Obama insists:

I’ll write more about the legal aspects of these issues in another post.

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