As you know, I like to start every show with some good news when I can. This week, it's not actually good news, but it's not entirely bad news. It has to do with something I haven't talked much about of late: guns.
You know, I know you know, about the killing rampage in Isla Vista, California last week. A man identified as 22-year-old Elliot Rodger shot and killed three people, stabbed to death three more, and injured another 13, some by gunfire, before shooting himself.
It's clear the Rodger was an actual example of the "disturbed young man" who has almost become a cliche in media accounts of mass shootings. The tragedy of his life became the tragedy of many other's lives, including not only the dead and injured by the friends and families left behind to mourn.
One of those left behind made his feelings clear: In a press conference the day after the shootings, Richard Martinez, the father of 20-year-old Christopher Martinez, one of those killed, blamed "craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA" for his son's death. He ended his statement by saying
When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, "Stop this madness!" Too many have died. We should say to ourselves, "Not one more!"I can't say that with the emotion with which he expressed it. If you haven't seen the statement, you should. A link to the CNN broadcast of his press conference is below. Watch it.
So the question is, what good - or what not entirely bad - can come out of that? It's that a few people, in a few places, are again daring to breathe the word "gun control."
For example, Rep. Peter King, who is in many ways a total loss as a human being, nonetheless is a longtime advocate of stricter gun control. He said the shootings re-raise the need for expanding background checks for gun owners. Considering that Rodger had three semi-automatic handguns in his car along with more than 40 loaded magazines of ammunition, all of which he got legally, that would seem to be a given, but in this issue, it never is.
He was not the only member of Congress to raise gun control: Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was another.
There is little, make that no, chance the murders in Isla Vista will move the national debate - the word "craven" was well-chosen; "cowardly" would fit, too. And there is a problem with the idea of "a greater focus on mental health resources" such as Blumenthal proposes as a way to try to move legislation forward: There is no reliable evidence that mentally ill people are more prone to violence than supposedly normal ones. Yes, we hear about the Elliot Rodgers, the Seung-Hui Chos - while we forget that on any average day in this country, 86 people die from gun violence, including 32 murders and 51 suicides, almost all of them committed by "normal" people.
Despite that, we can at least take heart in the fact that not everyone has given up, that some people, at least, can raise a candle in the rain, that some people can maintain the dream that some day when NRA President Wayne LaPePe LePew screeches "they're coming for your guns" that it might actually be true. And even better, we can take heart in the fact that there are even some people in a position to do something.
For example, on May 27 Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo proposed the most comprehensive changes to Massachusetts gun laws in 16 years, saying that the state can't wait for the feds to act.
Local police would be given expanded discretion to consider a person’s “suitability” to own a gun (and what constitutes "suitability" would be more clearly specified by the state), the state would join a national database for criminal and mental-health background checks, and all private sales of firearms would be conducted in the presence of a licensed dealer.
DeLeo hoped the bill, which he said was originally prompted by the Sandy Hook massacre, in 2012, could be enacted by the end of the legislative session in July. With heavy Democratic majorities in both the state House and state Senate and a Democratic governor, the chances for passage look reasonably good.
In fact, maybe better than reasonably, considering that the objection raised by House assistant minority leader was in some ways that the bill is not strong enough, for example on penalties for straw sales.
Meanwhile, the city of Chicago has come out with its response to a federal court ruling from January which said that the city's ban on handgun sales "goes too far."
That response is a sweeping ordinance loaded with strict regulations, including requiring the videotaping of all gun sales and special-use zoning that sharply limits the possible number of gun stores in the city.
All of which will come as horrible news to Sam Wurzelbacher, aka Joe the Plumber, who was neither Joe nor a plumber, who, apparently jealous that Sarah Palin was soaking up all the "why are we still paying attention to this person" vibes, published an "open letter" to the parents of those shot and killed by Elliot Rodger and particularly to Richard Martinez, telling him to, in just these words, "back off" because, again in so many words, "your dead kids don’t trump my rights." There is no pit deep enough to contain the bottom of such a soul.
So as I said: It's not really what I could call good news, but it's not altogether bad news. Some weeks, that's the best you can do.
Sources cited in links:
Link to Richard Martinez' statement: