Opinion: From Oswald to Hodgkinson

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

Although separated by 54 years, the connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and James T. Hodgkinson is all too familiar.

They both possessed a legally acquired rifle, and for reasons only known to them fired shots at the government of the United States with devastating consequences.

In the case of Oswald, he bought his rifle through an ordinary mail order transaction and Hodgkinson legally purchased his weapon as well… no questions asked.

Oswald fired shots at the president of the United States and Hodgkinson fired dozens of shots at members of Congress last week. Both shooters were killed before they could answer questions or to stand trial for their actions.

But the most telling similarity of these shootings is that after more than a half century and over 1.5 million shooting deaths of famous and anonymous Americans, the government of this country is still unwilling to come to grips with the plague of ever more lethal firearms in the hands of ever more people.

So far in this calendar year alone there have reportedly been 154 mass shootings with multiple fatalities. Gun violence either intentional or accidental is now the third leading cause of death in children. Forty-eight youngsters are shot in the United States every day and seven die. And today we are probably more in the thrall of the National Rifle Association than ever before.

The NRA response to these shocking statistics is to put more weapons in the hands of Americans, not less.

If only theater patrons were carrying weapons that would have prevented the massacre in Aurora, Colorado. If only night club goers were carrying weapons in Orlando, Florida. Or if only teachers were armed that would have averted the atrocity at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut… or so the promoters and apologists of gun manufacturers say. Even basic background checks to weed out the mentally ill or known dangerous persons is vehemently opposed by the NRA. And in the face of all this carnage, the NRA seeks even more goodies like legalizing the use of silencers on weapons and allowing concealed guns to be carried in public places.

Sadly there is no threat to the dubious claim of “most gun related killings”; that title is owned by America. This nation far outpaces the world in shootings and homicides every year. And amongst other developed and industrialized nations, especially in Europe, the comparisons are even more dramatic.

I pray that Congressman Steven Scalise recovers from his wounds as cautious reports say is increasingly likely, although he will never return to his former good health, nor did Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot by a deranged person a few years ago. Nobody is ever the same.

But if Mr. Scalise does recover from this assault, I would hope he might reconsider his position to oppose every effort to restrict the sale and purchase of a firearm, even by those with a history of mental illness.

How many more elected officials, civil rights leaders, famous entertainers or just innocent bystanders and most tragically children, must be victimized by gun violence before our national government shows some sanity and spine to stand up to the NRA, and at times even their own constituents, and say “ damn it, enough is enough”?

The next person who falls victim to an irrational shooter with an easily purchased gun will probably not be as lucky as Mr. Scalise.

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