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Charlie Vignola: What’s needed to pass gun control laws?

Democratic Voices

Posted: December 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

On the morning I learned about the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., I talked about the incident with a colleague of mine at work and actually cried. So did my colleague. We both have children in elementary school, so the very thought that this could easily have happened to our own kids really hit home.

When I learned that the killer had used assault weapons legally purchased by his mother, weapons that would have been illegal just eight short years ago when there was still an assault weapons ban in America, it made me more than sad – it made me pissed off.

To think that in 2004, the Bush administration allowed the assault weapons ban passed by the Clinton administration to expire simply because too many politicians didn’t have the guts to stand up to the NRA and fight for common sense gun regulations. Maybe, just maybe, if that didn’t happen, those 26 women and children at Sandy Hook might still be alive today.

Sometimes, it takes something spectacular to rouse people from their everyday apathy at the routine horrors of the world and get them to take notice. 9/11 was like that. Sure, Americans had heard of terrorism in foreign lands, but even after an abortive attack on the Twin Towers in 1993 we didn’t take the terrorist threat seriously at home.

Not until Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked planes, demolished the World Trade Center and flew a jet straight into the Pentagon itself did America leap into action. And boy, did we ever: We launched two wars, created a Department of Homeland Security, started the TSA, greenlit warrantless wiretapping against Americans, employed torture and opened Guantanamo Bay.

So what will it take for Americans to get that serious about gun control? Apparently Columbine didn’t do it, an assassination attempt on a congresswoman didn’t do it, even the luridly theatrical “Dark Knight” massacre last summer didn’t do it. We need a catalyzing event, a tipping point for people to become mad as hell and face down the NRA once and for all.

Here’s what I fear: only a nightmare scenario out of a Stephen King novel will get the country’s attention. Imagine the horror of waking up one morning and finding that Sandy Hook-style mass murders have occurred at half a dozen elementary schools across the nation, from Boston to Seattle, all on the same day. Would that be enough to scare the hell out of people and drive them to collectively demand action from their representatives? You think gun advocates would dare utter a word after the psychic shock of something like that?

Predictably, the conservative media is defending the NRA and gun owners, repeating the standard talking points about how guns don’t kill people, video games are really to blame, and if there were no guns then lunatics would kill just as many people with homemade bombs and knives so gun control isn’t the answer, and besides it’s a slippery slope – what if the black helicopters suddenly come for us?

Imagine for a moment that everything about the Sandy Hook massacre was exactly the same — except that the shooter’s name was Mohammed Al Mohammed and he was a Muslim. You think maybe the conservative media would be covering this incident a little differently?

That’s the sad irony. Some American kid commits the crime, it’s “Oh, well. That’s the price of living in a free country where you have the right to own a gun. Nothing we can do about it, so why try? In fact, if everyone had a gun we’d all be a lot safer.” But if it was a young Muslim who murdered those kids? We’d be passing new laws before they were even written, approving a trillion-dollar defense budget and launching a pre-emptive war against Iran, just to be on the safe side.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 31,347 Americans died from gun violence last year. For the record, that’s 10 times the number of people killed on 9/11. How is that not considered terrorism? Why do we accept this as Americans? Because the NRA tells us that’s the price we have to pay to uphold the Second Amendment?

I’m sorry, folks, but the NRA can go to hell as far as I’m concerned, because that’s not a price I’m willing to pay anymore. None of us should. Sandy Hook was an unimaginable tragedy, but I pray their deaths are not in vain. Instead I hope this will serve as the tipping point for America to finally take action before another Sandy Hook happens. Because another surely will, perhaps this one much closer to home.

Charlie Vignola is a former college Republican turned liberal Democrat. He lives in Fair Oaks Ranch.

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