Published: Jan 19, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 19, 2013 05:04 PM
It could have been a scene from 1968, the year a gunman improbably named Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert F. Kennedy with a handgun: political officials pleading for tighter gun control. But this time, the politicians were Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe.
Two days before President Obama announced his specifics on gun control post-Newtown, the mayors joined 800 others in demanding a renewed ban on assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines. The mayors also called for criminal background checks on all gun buyers and making gun-trafficking a federal crime.
Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed what he hailed as the toughest gun law in the nation. It doesnt quite disarm the Empire State, but in the ambition of those who would, the law is a start.
And in another instance of meanwhile, Chicago, which prides itself on squeezing gun control until it squeals, recorded 500-odd homicides in 2012. (Durham by comparison had 22, at least 20 attributed to firearms.)
So what does all this have to do with reducing gun violence? Very little if anything in New York, Chicago, Durham or any other place in the United States.
Gun violence is like the man who came to dinner and wouldnt leave.
Its a cultural phenomenon and an embarrassment among the nations, but no amount of wishing and no number of laws and executive orders will contain the spilled blood. In a country of 310 million people, there are how many? 200 million to 270 million firearms. No one knows the real number.
These guns arent going away. And even if they vanished overnight, the U.S.-Mexican border is so porous that criminals would be fondling replacements within days.
In fact, some of those guns might come courtesy of the U.S. Justice Department, whose ill-fated Operation Fast and Furious gunwalked all manner of bullet-spewing weapons to Mexican drug cartels.
Oh, the intentions were good: help Mexican authorities track the murderous cartels and eliminate them. The results were a wicked example of blowback, resulting in the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent by one of the weapons. Moreover, Fast and Furious guns were traced to the 2010 massacre of 15 Mexican young people and the wounding of eight at a Tijuana birthday party.
I am among those alarmed by the rise of semi-automatic assault-style rifles over the past 30 years and Im also an NRA member who believes that James Madison and other Founders intended the Second Amendment as the final argument of liberty (see Federalist No. 46).
Trust me, as wretched as things seem to many Americans today, were a long way from civilians needing military-style rifles. I carried an M-16 (and before that the older M-14) in Vietnam. I know what a high-velocity .223 bullet does to human flesh.
Still, despite the horror at Newtown, the easy availability of illegal handguns is a far greater danger. Along with illegal drugs, handguns are the currency of the streets.
Keeping guns away from the mentally unstable is finally a national priority, but keeping guns out of the hands of young men who use them to kill other young men now theres our rub, mayors. Good luck. Bob Wilson is a retired journalist and teacher. He lives in Durham.
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