Tipping Point on Gun Control?

This weekend was emotionally draining for our nation as we grieved with the community of Newtown, CT.  We grieved for the mass shooting of 20 children and 7 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.   For those of us in Oregon our emotions were already raw from a shooting at a crowded mall a few days prior.  Each shooting was eerily similar.  Both murders were conducted by an estranged young man, armed with body armor and military type assault weapons and magazines of bullets. 

On Sunday morning we gathered as did people of faith around the country, to find hope in our faith and comfort in the company of one another.  We prayed for those who had lost loved one’s both in Oregon and Connecticut and for all who live in fear of further violence.  

In reflecting upon all this I wonder if we as a nation have reached a tipping point related to how we seek a balance between the right to bear arms guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment and the right for our people to live in safety.  Up to this point the NRA has driven our debate suggesting that any limitation on weapons is an assault on the 2nd amendment itself.  I believe that this is a false choice. In the aftermath of the mass murders at Sandy Hook this  reasoning has crumbled.  I think reasonable people are looking for a balance between individual rights and the well-being of the wider community. 

Yesterday Senator Manchin of West Virginia, a pro NRA member, called for a “sensible nationwide dialogue on gun control , where everything, should be on the table”.  Said the senator, “I don’t know anybody in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle.”  

On Sunday night  President Obama, spoke at an interfaith service in Newtown.  He said:  “We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

We wait to see what specific steps President Obama will introduce.  Senator Diane Feinstein has indicated that she will introduce legislation on a national level to ban assault weapons, similar to the ban that was in effect up till 2004.

Here in Oregon, two bills will be presented to the legislature at their winter session.   One bill will limit the sale of ‘oversized ammunition magazines’ such as used in the Oregon and Newtown shootings.  The other bill will ban the sale of assault weapons in Oregon.   For those who want to learn more go the web site of ‘Ceasefire Oregon’.

Up to this point, the strategy for proponents of unlimited access to firearms is to wait until the emotional upheaval from a mass shooting subsides.  This strategy was successful after Thurston, Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech etc.

Will they succeed again? Or, have we as a nation reached a tipping point?  The answer rests with each one of us.  Are we ready to say ‘enough’?

Gun Control: If not now, when?

This past week the local  news reported the carnage from guns.  On Tuesday December 11th a lone 22-year-old man wearing body armor, a hockey mask and carrying an AR-15 assault rifle walked into Clackamas Town Center Mall in Portland, Oregon and opened fire.  Two were murdered, one 15-year-old girl seriously wounded and hundreds  shopping were emotionally traumatized.

What I find surprising are voices from local politicians and the editorial page of our statewide paper the Oregonian, counseling that this not be the time to debate the societal causes of violence and the easy access to assault weapons.  This is they say ‘ a time to heal, not a time for divisive debate’.  

I agree that this is a time for coming together, a time for prayer and for expressions of compassion and kindness.  Yet, I believe it is a disservice to the memory of those victimized by the violence,  not to take up the difficult debate about the violent influences in our culture and the easy access to weapons.

This past presidential debate the Republican candidate upheld the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution as the right to own any and all weapons.  President Obama was pointedly silent on the topic.  Each time in the aftermath of a mass shooting, the counsel is not to raise the divisive topic of  gun control.  Proponents of the NRA hope that the emotions of the moment will dissipate and we will continue the status quo.  Thus far their strategy has proven right.

However if you want to hear the voice for Gun Control, then talk to a first responder, a police officer, an EMT and most often you will hear a voice for limits.  These first responders are the one’s who must risk their life in a nation that resists gun control.  For example in 2010 there were 9000 murders by guns in the United States (and many thousands more wounded).  In comparison in Great Britain which has restrictions on access to weapons there were 58 gun related murders.   Even allowing for the difference in population that is a staggering difference.

As an Oregonian I’m standing with State Senator Ginny Burdick D-Portland who announced she will introduce in the 2013 legislature a ban on the sales of high-capacity ammunition magazines.  The very kind used to kill and terrorize holiday shoppers at the Clackamas Mall.  

Yes, this is a time to heal, to come together, to take care of each other, neighbor and stranger alike, to the best of our ability.  It is also a time to say this pattern of gun violence must stop and stop now.