Gun control advocates should stand down, post-Aurora
Unfortunately, after tragedies like this some politicians try to take advantage of the grief and outrage to advance attacks on Americans’ Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms.”
A week after the shootings at the “Dark Knight Rises” premiere in Aurora, Colo., Americans continue to mourn the deaths of the 12 people at the hands of a mad gunman. The alleged killer, James Holmes, has been arraigned and will receive a fair trial. If convicted, he likely would be given Colorado’s death penalty.
Unfortunately, after tragedies like this some politicians try to take advantage of the grief and outrage to advance attacks on Americans’ Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms.” President Obama has conducted himself well, consoling those who lost loved ones and initially refraining from linking the tragedy to public policy initiatives.
But, he also knows that advocacy for more gun control would lose votes in such battleground states as Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where many Democrats are hunters and National Rifle Association members. And, the president also knows that any discussion of guns would prompt renewed scrutiny of the Fast and Furious scandal. Last month, the U.S. House of Representatives declared Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over crucial documents needed for its investigation of the “gun walking” imbroglio that was implicated in the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
Democrats sound off
Not all Democrats have been so careful. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California after Aurora called for resuming the “assault weapons” ban she sponsored in 1994, but which expired in 2004.
She is running for re-election against Republican Elizabeth Emken. “Weapons of war don’t belong on the streets,” Feinstein said. “This is a powerful weapon, it had a 100-round drum,” she said, speaking of the legal AR-15 Holmes used; the drum jammed.
The facts argue differently. Under President Bill Clinton, the U.S. Justice Department conducted a study of Feinstein’s 1994 law and found, “The ban has failed to reduce the average number of victims per gun murder incident or multiple gunshot wound victims.”
We talked to David Kopel, director of the Second Amendment Project of the Independence Institute in Denver. He pointed out that although Colorado allows law-abiding citizens to get permits for concealed carry guns, the theater where the shooting took place banned such guns, even for an off-duty police officer who was a guard there. So the victims were all disarmed.
Kopel said one reason crime has been dropping in America is use of guns to stop crimes, as well as other factors, such as greater incarceration rates of criminals. “Total homicides have dropped by 50 percent from their peak in1980,” Kopel said. “In 2010, murders were at their lowest level in 50 years.”
He also pointed to the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia vs. Heller, which guaranteed a personal Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms.” Gun control advocates predicted murders would soar after the decision. But homicides in D.C. dropped to 108 in 2011 from 143 in 2008–a 25 percent decline.
Good guys with guns
Guns in the hands of the good guys can make a difference. In Aurora on April 22, a shooting took place in the parking lot of a church, the New Destiny Christian Center. Kiarron Parker was a convicted felon just out of prison, and so legally barred from owing a gun. Yet he still obtained one and murdered Josephine Echols, the mother of the church pastor. Fortunately, his rampage ended there. The Huffington Post reported that, “Echols’ nephew Antonio Milow, an off-duty Denver police officer who was attending a church service, then shot and killed Parker, authorities said.”
Presently, gun control “has become the issue neither party wants to tackle–so much so that when Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress, they took no action in 2009 or 2010,” the Washington Times reported this week. Public opinion, too, has shifted in favor of the status quo, recent polls show, a phenomenon attributed to the messaging of the National Rifle Association.
But Kopel warned that the Heller decision could be overturned, or severely weakened, if Obama is re-elected and appoints two or three more justices to the Supreme Court. His first two appointments, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, have track records hostile to gun rights.
This may not be the political moment to turn back gun rights, but an Obama second term is one that could threaten the Second Amendment.