There was another incident this week involving a gunman entering a public place and opening fire. This time, besides the shooter, there was one fatality, a boy, an Oregon high-school student attending classes on the second to last day of the term. Is this still OK? Just checking.
"This is a very tragic day, one that I had hoped would never ever be part of my experience," said Linda Florence, superintendent of the Reynolds School District.
See what she said there? She'd hoped she'd never have to experience a person coming into one of her schools with guns blazing. That means she knew it was possible. These days, educators, parents and, most importantly, children worry that one day, some maniac will come to their school and kill people. It's now part of life.
According to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, since the December 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been at least 74 shootings at schools in the United States. That includes assaults, homicides, suicides and accidental shootings. So, of course, Supt. Florence was scared.
Polls show that the public generally wants stricter gun laws—some show a majority favoring stricter laws while some have that figure just under 50 percent, but all polls have far fewer people favoring the status quo. The public overwhelmingly wants universal background checks on all gun buyers.
Despite that, nothing gets done—at least in Congress; some states have strengthened gun regulations. That's because too many lawmakers, mostly Republicans, are lapdogs of the powerful gun lobby. It feels like a lost cause. Many of us thought Newtown would finally be the catalyst for change. Nope. Does a high-profile shooting have to happen every day for change to happen? Twice a day? Must lawmakers' family members be murdered before they can muster the bravery to vote for stricter laws?
In November, voters in the 52nd Congressional District will have a chance to say something about gun laws when they choose between incumbent Scott Peters and challenger Carl DeMaio.
Here's what DeMaio's campaign website says about guns: "Carl DeMaio supports the Second Amendment. The President and the Congress must act now to forge a consensus to improve enforcement for background checks and to keep weapons out of the hands of those with serious mental health issues and criminal history."
In January 2013, Peters stated that he "supports a comprehensive plan, such as the one proposed by President Obama." That includes "better enforcement of existing gun laws and background checks on all gun purchases"; "reasonable restrictions on the types of guns and ammunition, originally intended for our military, available to civilians"; "more attention to mental health awareness and treatment"; and "giving local law enforcement the tools they need to reduce gun violence." Peters recently voted in favor of more funding for background checks, but he wasn't a co-sponsor of the 2013 bill to ban assault weapons.
We endorsed Peters before the June 3 primary election, and we'll do so again before the general election in November. CityBeat should be testing all candidates, for any office, on the gun issue. Amid our utter distaste for DeMaio, we haven't done so with Peters. However, we're heartened by the fact that the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, perhaps the country's preeminent advocate for gun-control, has endorsed Peters over DeMaio.
If you give a shit about mass shootings—yes, we understand that Tuesday's shooting wasn't a mass shooting and that the shooter may have used a standard rifle—you should force both candidates to elaborate fully on their positions. They should say whether or not they support background checks on all gun sales. They should say whether or not they'd vote for a ban on assault weapons. They should say whether or not they'd ban sales of high-capacity magazines.
If they try to sidestep the gun issue by saying more should be done about mental health, they should be pressed: What specifically should be done about it, and how will what they propose help prevent mass shootings? They should be pressed to connect the dots in a meaningful way. You should understand fully what they would do and what they wouldn't do before you cast your vote.
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