Editorial: Stop the firearms-fueled slaughter

Editorial: Stop the firearms-fueled slaughter

Two mothers called on Sewanhaka School District Tuesday to install armed security guards at all schools and improve communications during attacks on students with firearms.

The mothers’ concerns – that when they dropped their children off at school, it would be the last time they would see them alive – were well-founded.

Earlier that day, an 18-year-old gunman entered the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle – a weapon of war – and slaughtered 19 children and two teachers.

Ten days before the Uvalde massacre, another 18-year-old gunman with an AR-15 weapon killed 10 mostly elderly black people and injured three others in a racist attack at a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket.

“I along with many of my peers are wondering when the district is going to address the urgent need for armed security guards at all our schools,” said Peggy Asciutto, one of the parents. “I don’t really know what else there is to suggest and I just think that’s what we need.”

Asciutto’s concerns about school safety are shared by parents across the country. And she was not alone in her solutions.

Shortly after the shooting in Texas, three of the four GOP candidates for governor in New York issued statements that offered their sympathies while avoiding the issue of guns altogether.

Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island congressman who is considered the front-runner in the GOP primary race for governor, tweeted a brief statement expressing condolences.

Andrew Giuliani, a former Trump aide and the son of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, did the same, urging his Twitter followers to “pray together with me for them.”

Harry Wilson, a millionaire hedge fund manager and candidate, called the shooting “unimaginable and unacceptable” on Twitter.

Rob Astorino, the former Westchester County executive, was the only Republican to mention guns in his response

He posted a lengthy thread on Twitter that called for “enhanced background checks” —  while also criticizing politicians who “rushed out to shamefully politicize this tragedy.”

Zeldin said following the slaughter in Buffalo that New York should dump its red flag law, loosen permits for concealed weapons and allow New Yorkers to “stand your ground.”

The New York Republicans’ remarks were in keeping with the views of national Republicans.

Former President Donald Trump, who spoke at the NRA’s annual convention in Houston three days after the Uvalde massacre, echoed Zeldin’s call for increasing school safety measures. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz repeated the NRA’s answer that all that is needed to stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.

These are not serious answers. They don’t address the elephant in the room – guns.

No other country in the Western world has anywhere near the number of guns as the United States. And no other country in the Western world has anywhere near the amount of gun violence as the United States.

Should the United States better address mental health problems? Absolutely.

But there are mentally ill people in other Western countries. They also have the internet, video games and all the reasons given in this country to distract us from real solutions to gun violence.

Nearly 40 million guns were purchased in the United States in the past two years, bringing the number here to 400 million— more than the population of 329 million. Did that make us safer? No.

In that time, deaths by firearm rose to 45,000 – including murders, accidents and homicides. And guns became the No. 1 killer of children in the United States.

The number of people who died by firearms in Japan last year was in the single digits.

A good man with a gun?

One of those killed in Buffalo was Aaron Salter Jr., a former Buffalo policeman trained in the use of firearms who was working as a security guard. He shot the gunman, but the gunman was wearing body armor and was uninjured.

Salter was killed when the gunman returned fire with his AR-15.

A law passed in New York state prohibits teachers and principals from carrying guns on school grounds.

Should the law be overturned so that fourth-grade teachers in New York can carry guns? If so, what kind of guns would they use? A regular handgun is no match for an AR-15.

And where would the guns be stored so that no students could get to them? What kind of training would teachers receive in shooting them?

Or should we make fortresses out of every school with armed guards carrying weapons of war?

In Uvalde, nearly 19 police waited outside classrooms where the 18-year-old gunman held two teachers and a class of fourth-graders for 80 minutes.

It is unclear why the police violated protocol and did not rush an active shooter, but one wonders if the weapon he was using had something to do with it.

An AR-15 is a military-style weapon that fires a bullet that leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate 3 inches of leg bone. If it hits an organ, it turns the organ into jello that’s been dropped on the floor.

An exit wound can leave a jagged hold the size of an orange.

That would appear to give second thoughts to even 19 police officers – despite the danger to a room full of 10-year-olds.

So much for good men with a gun.

There is also no reason that an 18-year-old in Texas or New York should be able to buy an AR-15 – an age at which they cannot even buy a beer or a pack of cigarettes. In fact, there is no reason for any civilian to own an assault-style rifle.

Certainly, not by hunters.

These assault-style weapons have been at the center of 1,500 mass shootings in this country since 2009.

These have included churches, synagogues, supermarkets, movie theaters and music venues as well as schools – places not addressed this week by Republicans following the Uvalde shooting.

Do Republicans and some Democrats believe we should make hard targets out of all these places to accommodate the profits of gun manufacturers?

When a gunman killed 35 people in Tasmania in 1996, the Australian government passed common-sense gun laws six months later.  There has been only one mass shooting since. More than a million firearms were destroyed.

When an anti-Islamic extremist in Christchurch killed 51 people in two mosques in 2019, the New Zealand government banned most semi-automatic weapons 26 days later. There have been no mass shootings since.

On Monday, the Canadian government announced legislation that would require “military-style assault weapons” to be turned over to a government buyback program. The Canadian government also announced regulations to ban the sale, purchase, importation or transfer of handguns – the biggest killers here and in Canada.

Why can’t the United States at least ban assault-style weapons?

Actually, we did. The federal government banned assault-style for 10 years in 1994. Mass shootings decreased 43% during that period. President George W. Bush did not renew them in 2004 and mass shootings have increased by 245% since then.

But in the United States in 2022 after two massacres in 10 days, politicians in Washington – Democrats and Republicans – are tinkering around the edges and even that has an uncertain outcome.

No common-sense and politically popular legislation appear likely, such as bans on assault weapons, restrictions on magazine sizes, universal background checks, raising the age for all gun purchases to 21, licensing and registration for firearms, requirements to safely secure firearms so they are not stolen or fall into the hands of children.

And if anything federal courts are making things worse. A federal court in California this month struck down a California law that banned the sale of semi-automatic weapons to people under 21. The Republican-appointed majority on the Supreme Court now appears poised to overturn New York state’s law against conceal and carry.

Imagine sitting next to someone on the subway who is packing heat.

Does the Constitution prohibit gun regulations? No.

“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” conservative Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a precedent-setting opinion that expanded gun ownership rights.

History demonstrates, Scalia said, “the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running governor against Kathy Hochul, said it well after Uvalde.

“I am furious with many of my colleagues in Congress,” Suozzi said. “Predominantly Republicans and some Democrats, too, are held hostage by the NRA and stand down when faced with common-sense gun reform. What is wrong with them?”

Hochul said following Uvalde and Buffalo she wants to raise the age to buy assault-style weapons “at a minimum” to 21. The minimum age for buying alcohol and cigarettes in New York is 21. How is it even possible that it isn’t already the same for all firearms?

Hochul had called on lawmakers to pass legislation after the shooting in Buffalo to close gun law loopholes and fine-tuning red-flag laws intended to prevent people with mental health problems from possessing firearms.

This would be a step forward.

But without federal action even in places like New York that have relatively strong gun laws there is no stopping the flow of illegal guns from states with lax or non-existent gun laws.

And without a federal ban on weapons of war parents will be left to fear the worst.

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