By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
American-born Omar Mateen, an avowed ISIS sympathizer now heads the list of infamy… the roll call of U.S. citizens who have committed mass murder against their fellow citizens.
This time the city was Orlando and the target was a well-known nightclub spot where gays congregated. At least 49 persons were slaughtered with an assault weapon legally purchased in Florida.
Previously it was a shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech which killed 32 in 2007 that topped the list. More recently 26 toddlers and teachers were gunned down at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut in 2012, and a dozen theater goers were shot to death in Colorado in 2013. The shooting at a Charleston South Carolina bible study class left nine dead. And of course Columbine High School will be forever synonymous with senseless mass murder after two of its students methodically murdered 13 of their fellow classmates.
Each incident, and dozens more, have its own unique and horrific characteristics. Shooters who held grudges, or were driven by some irrational ideological or religious madness. There is no particular rhyme or reason. Murder and mayhem have existed since biblical times and before. In some respects the human impulse towards unspeakable violence has not changed in thousands of years either on a national scale or individually. Once upon a time, they were called Barbarians, or Huns or Crusaders or Nazis or ISIS.
But what we have seen in the past quarter century in this country is tragically and uniquely modern. Our own citizens committing mass murder against their own neighbors because they can. They are able to carry out these heinous acts because of technology. Years ago the same consuming urge for revenge or some insane desire to inflict harm might have resulted in a fist fight or a stabbing or a rampage with a tire iron, now has escalated to the ability to kill dozens in the blink of any eye with high powered firearms meant for the battlefield but legally available to almost any person in most states in this country.
I submit that human behavior, which has changed very little throughout the ages, is unlikely to change anytime soon. We will never be able to control or predict who may become the next mass murderer. But other than Timothy McVeigh who detonated a bomb killing 169 persons in an Oklahoma government building from some perverse anti-government mentality, virtually all other massacres have been committed with an assault weapon… and that we can control.
Most sensible and mature nations around the world do not permit such weapons to be possessed by their citizens. And while no law is fail safe, for the most part those nations have not suffered the kind of violence that has become routine in the United States. So why will Congress not finally act to forbid these kind of guns to be sold? The Second Amendment zealots will loudly proclaim that anything with a trigger is protected and somehow sacrosanct. They hide behind some twisted view of patriotism or constitutionality to protect a citizen’s gun ownership rights. But in point of fact the persons leading the defense of guns are the ones who manufacture and hugely profit from them.
So Congress chooses to bow to the unscrupulous businessmen of the gun industry who contribute millions of dollars to political war chests, and in so doing put the country at risk to the lunatics, the haters and terrorists, mostly home grown. And so we will again bear witness to the hand wringing by the cynical cowards of Congress.
We will hear again about how people, not guns, kill. Some may even say this incident proves that we must either control, monitor or ban Muslims from this country. Such people scapegoat and deflect the real matter. It is not the inviolate protection of gun manufacturers that will make us more secure, and it is certainly not a ban on Muslims that will make us safer, it is a ban on assault weapons and other firearms that will at long last prevent much of the carnage from taking place.
But don’t hold your breath. If the murder of two dozen precious toddlers in 2012 would not move Congress to action, whatever will?