No sooner had the news cycle concluded with the violent shootout and cabin fire involving disgruntled ex-cop Chris Dorner, then the news hit of Ali Syed who used a shotgun to kill innocent victims from one end of Orange County to another. These two local stories of death and injury from gun violence were in the shadow of the Newtown massacre of 20 children and six adults just two months prior.
Predictably, the latest carnage had not even been mopped up when so-called “firearms experts” were giving interviews proclaiming that, "guns are not the issue." A recent Orange County Register story featured local “firearms expert” Greg Block who suggested that a frying pan or knife can be just as lethal and instead blamed video games and prescription drugs for society’s gun violence.
It is evident to any reasonable person that the root causes of gun violence are complex and varied. In the last few episodes of tragic gun massacres, the motivating theories have included workplace frustration, video games, mental illness, perceived racism and social isolation. Though some or all of these might be contributing factors to tragedies such as Newtown, Aurora or Tucson, the one factor that is consistent in all these events is the presence of powerful firearms. To ignore the obvious thread that binds all of these events is to turn a blind eye to the obvious.
For “experts” such as Block or NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre to disavow any connection to guns in these killings is astonishing. Would Adam Lanza have been able to wipe out 26 lives in a matter of minutes with a frying pan? Could Scott Dekraai have killed 8 and injured a 9th in a Seal Beach hair salon with a baseball bat? Would 70 people have been killed or injured in a movie theater if James Holmes had been carrying a knife instead of an AR-15? Might 9-year-old Christina Green, who was shot through her chest in a Tucson parking lot, still be alive if Jared Loughner had been carrying a slingshot instead of a semi-automatic weapon which fired 33 rounds in 15 seconds?
Some or all of these tragedies may have still occurred even with tighter gun legislation, but who can deny that the carnage might have been reduced had it been more difficult to obtain AR-15s and high capacity magazines? In fact, Jared Loughner, in preparation for his Tucson assault, was able to purchase 6,000 rounds of ammunition over the internet without raising any red flags.
It is true that no single law will remedy this issue and any effective approach must be holistic in nature. The Obama administration has attempted to tackle the problem in such a way by convening experts from the mental health community, the movie and video gaming industry, the medical profession and the gun industry earlier this year. Proposed legislation includes additional funds for mental health resources, improved safety in our schools, and yes, the third rail of the gun conversation, increased control over who buys guns and the kinds of guns people can buy.
Contrary to oft-repeated talking points, these types of common sense reforms do not equate to “taking peoples guns away” nor do they violate the Second Amendment. In fact, the number of Americans who support sensible gun laws has spiked since the carnage of Newtown with as many as 83 percent supporting comprehensive background checks. Even many members of the NRA support some type of reform despite the shrill insistence of spokesman Wayne LaPierre that the prevalence of military style weapons and ammunition is not a problem.
While there will never be a perfect solution to the gun violence that is so prevalent in today’s American society, this is no reason to accept the status quo and ignore the problem. We simply cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. Individuals like Mr. Block or Mr. LaPierre who deny a connection between guns and gun violence are on the fringe of this issue and are doing a disservice to both the conversation and the safety of our communities. For these men and others, who claim to be experts on firearms, to deny this connection is both intellectually dishonest and morally inexcusable. Now is the time to do something about gun violence.