Media outlets roundly urged Congressional leaders to pass gun safety legislation in the wake of the deadly San Bernardino mass shooting -- including stronger gun violence prevention laws on military-style weapons, background checks, and rolling back concealed-carry laws -- and chastised politicians for their complicity in the “crisis in American society” where “gun carnage ... has come to define America.”
Mass Shooting In San Bernardino Kills 14
Deadly Mass Shooting Leaves 14 Dead, Motive Not Yet Known. The motive behind the mass shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 dead and dozens wounded “has yet to be determined, with officials saying they are looking at whether the assault may have been workplace violence or 'terrorism,'” Al Jazeera America reported. “A heavily armed couple dressed for battle” opened fire with assault rifles and semi-automatic handgunsat the Inland Regional Center on December 2:
A heavily armed couple dressed for battle opened fire on a holiday banquet being held for one of the gunman's co-workersWednesday, killing 14 people and seriously wounding more than a dozen more in what authorities characterized as a precision assault. Hours later, both died in a shootout with police.
The motive behind America's latest mass shooting has yet to be determined, with officials saying they are looking at whether the assault may have been workplace violence or “terrorism.”
The shooting happened at a social services center for the disabled where Farook's colleagues with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health were renting space for a celebration. It was the nation's deadliest mass shooting since the attack at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, three years ago that left 26 children and adults dead.
About four hours after the morning carnage, police hunting for the killers riddled a black SUV with gunfire in a shootout 2 miles from the social services center. [Syed Rizwan] Farook and [Tashfeen] Malik were found with assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, and were wearing “assault-style clothing” with ammunition attached, authorities said. [Al Jazeera America, 12/3/15]
Media Urge Congress To Stand Up To The NRA And Pass Gun Safety Laws
New York Times Editorial Board Calls For “Firm Action” To Prevent “Horrifying And Familiar” Mass Shootings. The New York Times editorial board excoriated Congressional Republicans for "[rejecting] sensible gun controls" and “betting they can brazenly go through another election cycle without enacting gun safety laws” in a December 3 editorial. The board beseeched Congress to take action on gun safety laws as “the sales of weapons grow ever higher” while political leaders have “allowed the domestic gun industry to use assorted loopholes to sell arsenals that are used against innocent Americans” :
There will be post-mortems and an official search for a “motive” for this latest gun atrocity, as if something explicable had happened. The ultimate question grows with each new scene of carnage: Are these atrocities truly beyond the power of government and its politicians to stop? That tragically has been the case as political leaders offer little more than platitudes after each shootout, while the nation is left to numbly anticipate the next killing spree.
The carnage in San Bernardino happened even as the nation was trying to come to grips with last week's massacre in Colorado Springs, where three lives were taken and nine people wounded.
Yet, even as grief fills communities randomly victimized by mass shootings, the sales of weapons grow ever higher. Holiday shoppers set a record for BlackFridaygun sales last week. They left the Federal Bureau of Investigation processing 185,345 firearm background checks, the most ever in a single day, topping the BlackFridaygun buying binge after the shooting massacre of 26 people at a school in Newtown, Conn., three years ago.
Those who reject sensible gun controls will say anything to avoid implicating the growth in the civilian arsenal. The House speaker, Paul Ryan, for one, responded to the killings at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs with a call for better mental health care, and is supporting a new bill that sponsors said would expand services to provide earlier treatment so violent people might theoretically be intercepted. “For those with mental illness, what we ought to be doing is treating the mental illness instead of responding to the crime,” Representative Tim Murphy, a Pennsylvania Republican and a chief sponsor of the bill, told The Wall Street Journal in an interviewon Tuesday.
This is the familiar line trotted out by Republican politicians after every massacre, as if unfettered access to high-powered weaponry -- which they and the gun lobby have made possible -- is not a factor in this national catastrophe. Congress's Republican leaders are betting they can brazenly go through another election cycle without enacting gun safety laws.
Congress has allowed the domestic gun industry to use assorted loopholes to sell arsenals that are used against innocent Americans who cannot hide. Without firm action, violent criminals will keep terrorizing communities and the nation, inflicting mass death and damage across the land. [New York Times, 12/3/15]
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Congress Must Realize “There Are Steps They Could Take That Would Save Lives.” In a December 3 editorial, The Washington Post editorial board urged Congressional leaders “to acknowledge that there are steps they could take that would save lives,” lamenting the fact that the most Congress has been able to offer victims of gun violence so far is “a moment of silence.” The board advocated for Congress to take up more gun safety legislation, including “stricter requirements about who can own guns, technology to improve safety, [and] research into gun violence” noting “one factor is common to every mass shooting: guns” :
The three people mercilessly gunned down in Colorado Springs had not even been buried when Americans again found themselves reeling from another mass shooting. More dead, more wounded. More grieving families.
Wednesday's events in San Bernardino, Calif. , brought into tragic relief the dangers facing this country from within and without and the need for strategies to prevent the people -- whether they are terrorists, mentally ill, or both, or neither -- from being able to do harm. Many factors come into play, but as we've said before, one factor is common to every mass shooting: guns.
Among those weapons were .223-caliber assault rifles and semiautomatic handguns. Federal authorities said the weapons were purchased legally. Why are weapons designed for war -- the .223-caliber is described as powerful enough to pierce the standard protective vest worn by police officers -- even on the market? That is one question that should be posed in the aftermath of this shooting. To do so, though, would require those in Congress and state legislatures to acknowledge that there are steps they could take that would save lives: stricter requirements about who can own guns, technology to improve safety, research into gun violence.
Yes, the nation needs to pursue Islamist terrorists overseas more aggressively and combat radicalization at home. Yes, we need to offer better mental-health treatment. But we also need to make it more difficult for civilians to obtain weapons of war. Only one day before the San Bernardino shooting, members of Congress observed a moment of silence for the victims of the Colorado mass shooting. Unfortunately, that silence is the most they've been able to offer so far. [The Washington Post, 12/3/15]
Los Angeles Times Editorial Board: “Congress' Fear Of [The NRA]” Is “Suicidal.” In a December 3 editorial, the Los Angeles Times editorial board hammered Congressional leaders for their inaction on gun safety measures and advocated for more stringent laws on military-style weapons and stronger background checks. The board wrote that “Congress' fear of that powerful but irresponsible group [the NRA] -- is suicidal” and that it's time to “loosen the iron grip the NRA holds on Congress.” They concluded "[t]hat is where the pushback against this culture of death needs to occur":
Enough. This nation's infatuation with guns -- inflamed by the ludicrous stances of the NRA, and abetted by Congress' fear of that powerful but irresponsible group -- is suicidal. There are too many guns, too easily obtained. Often they are in the hands of those who should not have them at all, such as the mentally ill.
It's absurd that one of the richest, freest, and most advanced societies in world history endures such a scourge with such equanimity. But there is hope. A Gallup poll in October found that 55% of Americans support stronger gun control measures, and other surveys have found that even a majority of NRA members support mandatory background checks -- something the NRA itself has assiduously opposed. There is broad political support for stronger laws to address the nation's gun addiction, but gun control advocates have so far been unable to counter the money and organizational heft of the NRA. It's obscene that a single interest group is able to endanger an entire nation's safety.
The Supreme Court lent credibility to the fully-armed-America crowd in its 2008 Heller decision, which held that the 2nd Amendment guarantees an individual's right to bear arms for “traditionally lawful purposes,” such as self-protection in the home. It's a wrongheaded interpretation of wording that for decades was rightly understood to mean that organized military units, such as the National Guard, have a right to keep and bear arms.
We're stuck with the Heller ruling for now. But thankfully, the court also said the right to gun ownership was not absolute, and that the nation's history of gun ownership has also been one of gun regulation. So let's get at it. There is no need for civilians to own military-style weapons, or magazines that hold large numbers of cartridges that maximize carnage. There is no justification for selling or transferring a firearm to anyone who has not passed a stringent background check, whether it's a father turning over a gun to a daughter, or a gun shop selling to a stranger. We need to get rid of most concealed-carry laws and make sure there are no guns on school campuses. We need more trigger locks, locked cabinets and gun buybacks.
This crisis in American society must be combated through the ballot box, and through lobbying to loosen the iron grip the NRA holds on Congress and many state legislatures. That is where the pushback against this culture of death needs to occur. And it needs to occur now. [Los Angeles Times, 12/3/15]
The Nation: “The Political Class Has Both The Ability And The Obligation To Address” Gun Violence. In a December 3 column, the editors of The Nation chastised political leaders for the “larger democratic crisis” that has stalled action on gun safety laws, writing that “a rigged political infrastructure that gives outsized power to wealthy corporate interests and the extremists who pander to them” have led to a failure to address “even the most basic and solvable problems facing the American people” :
Politicians cannot avoid this scourge. This is true in a literal sense: One of the Roseburg victims was a relative of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, while a staffer for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was killed in Brooklyn by a stray bulletin September. Gun violence has also spiked in Washington, DC, mainly in the poor neighborhoods ringing the city, where the murder rate surpassed that of 2014 by early September.
But it's also true in a much more fundamental sense: There is a public-safety crisis that the political class has both the ability and the obligation to address. Studies have shown a direct correlation between tighter gun-control measures and fewer gun deaths, as President Obama noted in his frustration-laced speech following the Roseburg shooting. “When roads are unsafe, we fix them to reduce auto fatalities. We have seat-belt laws because we know it saves lives. So the notion that gun violence is somehow different...doesn't make sense,” Obama said.
That's because our failure to properly address gun deaths is a symptom of a larger democratic crisis. The reason that the United States can't confront the clear and existential threat of climate change, or expand a safety net that is demonstrably shortchanging poor Americans, is the same reason that this country can't solve its gun problem: a rigged political infrastructure that gives outsized power to wealthy corporate interests and the extremists who pander to them. A strong background-check bill actually received a majority of votes in the Senate following the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, but it failed to advance because of arcane filibuster rules. It probably would have died anyhow in a hopelessly gerrymandered House, where a small number of conservative radicals--many of them heavily backed by gun manufacturers and the NRA--hold a wildly disproportionate sway.
It's possible that our glaring gun-violence problem will someday be addressed. There are certainly some promising changes happening at the local level. But the question remains: How many thousands of Americans will have to die first--and why must we remain so pathetically ill equipped to deal with even the most basic and solvable problems facing the American people? [The Nation, 12/3/15]
USA Today Editorial Board: Action On Gun Safety Laws “Has To Begin.” The USA Today editorial board wrote that current gun laws “merit being updated” to “reduc[e] thegun carnage that has come to define America.” The board urged Congress to take action on current proposals, including “universal background checks; bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; and aggressive enforcement against rogue gun dealers.” From the December 3 editorial:
But even by the standards of an American culture where mass shootings threaten to become routine, events like the ones in the past several days still retain the power to shock and anger, and to command the nation's attention. What they haven't done is galvanize Americans to find a way to try to make them stop happening, or at least make them less frequent.
It's a hellish problem. The Supreme Court has twice ruled that individuals have a right to own guns, and polls show Americans about evenly split between support for gun rights and gun control restrictions. Much as the most ardent anti-gun advocates want it, the U.S. won't follow other nations that have banned most private gun ownership or forced citizens to sell back certain weapons to the government.
On guns, proposals that could cut down on the carnage are well known: universal background checks; bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; and aggressive enforcement against rogue gun dealers who “lose” weapons that show up later on the black market, or who condone gun purchases by straw buyers because the real buyers couldn't pass a background check.
As for mental health, a new California law that goes into effectJan. 1might help stop some deranged shooters; it would allow family members or police to ask a judge for a “gun violence restraining order” to temporarily confiscate guns from someone who is clearly disturbed.
Separately, the restrictions that bar people from legally buying guns have remained largely the same for almost 50 years; they merit being updated to screen out more people who have displayed violent behavior. Even when a judge finds someone mentally ill, many states still don't reliably send the records to the federal database used to screen gun buyers. According to a report last year by Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, 12 states have submitted fewer than 100 records to the database, an appalling lapse.
The work of reducing the gun carnage that has come to define America in the rest of the world will not be done quickly, but it has to begin. [USA Today, 12/3/15]
Nicholas Kristof: Congress “Urgently Need[s] To Talk About Remedies” To Gun Violence. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote in a December 3 opinion piece that “we need a new public health approach based ... on reducing the carnage” guns cause. Kristof explained that a focus needs to be on “curbing access to guns among people who present the greatest risk,” and suggested instituting universal background checks, closing the terror-gap, and “banning people from under 21 from having a gun.” Kristof imploreed Republicans to “listen to your sainted leader” Ronald Reagan, who “favored gun regulations” :
First, guns, the central issue: We need a new public health approach based not on eliminating guns (that simply won't happen in a land awash with 300 million guns) but on reducing the carnage they cause.
We routinely construct policies that reduce the toll of deadly products around us. That's what we do with cars (driver's licenses, seatbelts, guardrails). It's what we do with swimming pools (fences, childproof gates, pool covers). It's what we do with toy guns (orange tips).
It's what we should do with real guns.
While Republicans in Congress resist the most basic steps to curb gun access by violent offenders, the public is much more reasonable. Even among gun owners, 85 percent approve of universal background checks, according to a poll this year.
Likewise, an overwhelming share of gun owners support cracking down on firearms dealers who are careless or lose track of guns. Majorities of gun owners also favor banning people under 21 from having a handgun and requiring that guns be locked up at home.
For similar reasons, Ronald Reagan, hailed by Republicans in every other context, favored gun regulations, including mandatory waiting periods for purchases.
“Every year, an average of 9,200 Americans are murdered by handguns,” Reagan wrote in a New York Times op-ed in 1991 backing gun restrictions. “This level of violence must be stopped.”
He added that if tighter gun regulations “were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”
Republicans, listen to your sainted leader. [New York Times, 12/3/15]
Post has been updated to include additional examples.