Wed, 08 Apr 2009 16:05:40 +0000 – America is an amazing country.
"We The People" respond to changing realities -- be they shifting opportunities for innovation or dealing with a new terror threat. Our leaders and our culture must adjust to changing times quickly or lose power and money. This is a country that is so innovative it has even amended its most basic document: the Constitution. We've emancipated slaves and given women the right to vote.
American-style change can come in shocking bursts.
When it comes to political change it is easy to forget, given the current dominance by Democrats in Washington, that Republicans controlled the House, the Senate and the White House as recently as 2006.
For a cultural example of quick change take a look at public attitudes towards gambling. In the last 25 years we have taken gambling out of the grip of the criminal underworld. Now there are state lotteries almost everywhere, and scratch-off tickets as well as Power Ball can be found in the corner store.
As amazing as all those changes have been I am even more amazed at one reality that has not changed in America.
For some reason this nation's leaders cannot stop teenaged drug dealers, certifiable nuts and criminals from easily getting a gun.
In fact, that idea is so far off the map that in January a bill in Congress calling for individuals to be licensed to buy guns or ammunition did not get one co-sponsor and never came close to a vote on the House floor. This was just a matter of a license. A license would carry more stringent requirements than a permit but it is still just a license. Americans have to have a license to drive a car. But the politicians are scared to make even the slightest move to limit easy access to guns.
This "lock and load" mania is running strong despite last year's ruling by the Supreme Court that individual Americans have a right to own guns. That ruling was a reassuring victory for gun owners. But anxiety among people who love their guns continues to rise. The most common explanation for this rising wave of fear is that President Obama -- who has said next to nothing on the issue -- might want to try to curb gun sales.
The anxiety of those who fear any limits on guns has accelerated since the Mexican government has asked the U.S. for help in keeping guns out of the hands of large Mexican drug dealers. When Attorney General Eric Holder responded to the crisis in Mexico by talking about putting in place a ban on the sale of large guns able to hold multiple cartridges of firepower it was interpreted by some gun rights advocates as a reason to stockpile more guns and ammo.
Just so you know where I am coming from, I'd ban guns -- big and little -- for private use in the USA. I live in a big city, Washington, D.C., and I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. The bad guys with guns are running wild in big cities. As in most of urban America the people with the guns are young drug dealers fighting over turf and willing to kill anyone from children to little old ladies who happen to get in their way. Black on black homicide, largely among these young men, has been hitting record highs for most of the past decade. These people have no conscience and they scare me.
I think it is okay for people to have guns for use in sport shooting or in the military and police departments. But guns should be kept on military bases or at places where target shooting is practiced.
As for the argument that the Founding Fathers did not want our government to be the only people with guns -- what a joke.
Does anyone think they have more guns, biological weapons and even nukes than the federal government and the arsenal of the U.S. military? If it is just a matter of firepower there is no army of civilians -- even one with Clint Eastwood, Jack Bauer and the Rock leading the charge -- that is going to defeat an American government captured by fascists. Just ask Timothy McVeigh if modern political change in American is possible through the use of bombs much less guns.
This April marks ten years since two disturbed teens went on a killing spree at Columbine High School in Colorado. This month is also marks two years since 32 people were killed by a psycho student in an outright massacre at Virginia Tech.
"About 30,000 people a year in this country die from gun violence, about 80 a day, 32 by homicide -- the same number who died at Virginia Tech..." said Paul Helmke, the president of the Jim Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the organization that was started after President Reagan and Brady were shot by a mentally disturbed man. "In the space of four months, up to nine Americans died as a result of bacteria-laden peanut butter crackers, and the government quickly took action." But when it comes to guns, Helmke added, "some of the top government officials in our country say we don't need to do anything different -- that we should just 'enforce the laws on the books.' The laws on the books aren't getting the job done. Now is the time to take effective steps to prevent gun violence."
The roll call of death and suffering from guns continued earlier this month with the tragic mass shooting in Binghamton, N.Y. That followed one man killing ten people in Alabama before taking his own life. And that preceded the murders of eight people in a North Carolina nursing home, as well as one parolee shooting four policemen to death in Oakland, Calif. The grim list goes on and on. Yet there is no change in sight.
In fact, in Nebraska there is a big argument in the legislature about guns. It is not about banning them. The debate is whether to allow security guards to bring guns into churches. To my mind the debate should be about how to keepallguns out of churches. The incredibly wrangling over guns in Nebraska churches is taking place when just a month a man in Illinois shot and killed a preacher during a church service.
In Montana there is a proposal to exempt any gun, gun part or ammunition made in the state from federal laws requiring licenses for gun dealers and background checks before gun sales.
At the moment there is a nationwide run on ammunition and guns. The FBI reports it is being flooded with requests for background checks on people who want to buy guns. The raw numbers are amazing. The FBI got 1.2 million more background check requests for the months November, December, January and February than they did during those four months a year ago.
The San Antonio Express-News reported this week that March sales for the AcuSport company, which sells ammunition and firearms to 4,000 stores nationally, has seen a huge jump in its sales as compared to a year ago. For example it has had a 137 percent jump in the sale of bullets for handguns and an 89 percent jump in the sale of rifle ammunition last month as compared to March of 2008.
In West Virginia, the Charleston Daily Mail reports that in the first three months of this year a local company, Spring Hill Rod and Guns, has sold more ammunition than it sells in an average year. The paper quoted Lawrence Keane, of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, as saying there is a "tremendous shortage of ammunition" across the country.
Where are all these guns going? Are they being properly safe-guarded? Do you doubt that many of them will end up in the wrong hands?
"We have a gun crisis in America," says Helmke of the Brady group in a recent statement. "As important as the economic crisis is, the right to be safe at home and work and play needs at least as much attention from our policymakers as the right to economic security. It is time for leaders in Washington to drop empty platitudes after each horrific shooting and. . . show backbone and enact reasonable laws to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people."
Juan Williams is a co-host of FNC's "The Five," where he is one of seven rotating Fox personalities.