No More Petitions!

Like December 7, 1941 or September 11, Friday, December 14, 2012 is a day that will now live in infamy. The awful images are seared into our brains: A young man in combat fatigues approaching Sandy Hook Elementary School carrying an assault weapon, breaking in and shooting two adults who tried to stop him, and then executing 20 young children, spraying hundreds of bullets into their bodies, and murdering their teachers as well.

What happens next?

In the wake of the massacre of children in Newtown, some citizens are signing petitions like this one:

Our second amendment rights are long overdue a reevaluation. How many more senseless and entirely PREVENTABLE shootings have to occur before we do something about Gun Control. As a citizen and constituent of this great country, I am asking that you take a firm stand and make a positive change by restricting access to guns and saving lives. I don’t have a gun. I don’t want a gun. I don’t need a gun. But somehow the guns always wind up in the hands of people crazy enough to use them irresponsibly and dangerously. This HAS TO BE STOPPED.

With all due respect, high-sounding petitions like this are meaningless. Why anyone wanting a new reality would sign it baffles me. This is not ‘action,’ just a way to feel good about ‘having done something.’ (I am not against petitions per se, just vacuous ones.)

Another response is even more baffling: Arm the educators. The headliner for this foolishness has been former Secretary of Education William Bennett, who made the suggestion on Meet the Press. Mr. Bennett has become a poster child for right-wing blather, but apparently his titles from his former life are still enough to get him air time on distinguished programs like Meet the Press, and probably lots of high-paying speaking gigs as well.

The AFT’s Randi Weingarten was on the Meet the Press panel with Mr. Bennett. Here’s her response: “Schools have to be safe sanctuaries. And so we need to actually stop this routine view that just having more guns will actually make people safer. So we are opposed to having in a safe sanctuary like an elementary school, having someone who has access to guns.”

We all know a moment like this could happen again, and soon. So ... what's the next step to prevent that?

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) has promised to introduce legislation to ban assault weapons, and that’s a start, but the bill she described on television would ban them retroactively. Sorry, but that’s not enough.

And her bill also would exempt over 900 weapons. Not good enough, Senator.

(It’s worth reading the transcript of the entire program, and I suggest paying close attention to what New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg had to say.)

Here’s my view: Assault weapons must be banned, pure and simple. No weapon that holds more than 10 bullets should be legal. No automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Period, end of sentence, full stop. These are not for hunting. They are for killing people.

Possession of these weapons must be outlawed. Although Mr. Bennett said it couldn’t be retroactive, I think it has to be. A new law might establish provisions for monetary rewards for turning them in, but they must be taken out of circulation.

We have acted against proven dangers in the past: asbestos wasn’t just banned in new buildings when we learned that it causes cancer; where it had been installed, it had to be removed. However, we have also waffled in the face of proven dangers, with tobacco being the best example I can think of now. So this will be a test of our determination and political will.

The debate has been joined, and even some pro-gun politicians are sounding reasonable. That has me worried, because I fear they are saying what’s expedient in order to survive politically.

America has too many guns, and it shouldn’t take a massacre to wake us up to this fact. We have children murdering children with handguns, something we experienced in New Orleans during the filming of Rebirth: New Orleans. On my last trip there this spring, one of the kids in the film, 14-year-old Christine Marcelin, was murdered by some other kids, apparently fearful that she might have information they didn’t want the authorities to know. So they grabbed her as she was leaving school and killed her in cold blood.

We must make it harder to own a gun, at least as difficult as it is to get a driver’s license. We are the laughingstock of the world, and we are terrifying our own children.

We should demand strong leadership, not just words, from our President.

We should expect organizations that purport to care for children to take the lead: the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National School Boards Association, the Chief State School Officers, the Council of the Great City Schools, Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Jonah Edelman’s Stand for Children, and the National PTA.

If these groups stand on the sidelines, we must call them out for hypocrisy.

It’s time for people who care about this country and our children to become single-issue voters, just like the NRA zealots. Make it clear that you will actively oppose candidates who are not fighting — and voting — for a complete ban on assault weapons, semi-automatic and automatic and for a sensible training and licensing procedure for all guns. Fight for candidates who will take on the NRA zealots and the pro-gun lobby.

Anything less will dishonor the memory of those innocent children and the brave educators who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday.

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25 thoughts on “No More Petitions!

  1. I think the response is even simpler. No guns period. Somehow 27 is more actionable than one? (27 times 1 is still 27 deaths). Not when your loved one is the one. No guns eliminates the need for qualifying people for guns. No need to identify anyone’s mental status or capability.

    If my stats are even remotely accurate the evidence speaks for itself. England 10, US 10,000. That is deaths from hand guns.


  2. I agree with the laws you suggest as a start. My rural hunting relatives have come to share this point of view. Joe Manchin will say whatever he thinks will please his immediate audience–but I believe that here in WV there will be a net positive for a politician who supports the laws you propose. I worry, from years of watching Joe up close, that he will sound supportive only to water down everything that is introduced.


  3. Have contacted several members of Congress to say this is a priority and I want to see automatic weapons banned for sale to people other than police and military. We should provide financial incentives for people to turn them in.


  4. John,

    While I am entirely in agreement, I am afraid that although banning such weapons will make a major statement, and probably save lives,it is a necessary but not sufficient condition to reducing violence. Addressing core issues of poverty and dysfunctional families, returning our schools to “good old golden rule” places from test result factories, getting our church and temple members out of their edifices and into their neighborhoods all would help. Best of all would be leadership to maintain our outrage not only about Sandy Hook but also the fifty children a week lost to violence and rarely reported.


  5. Agree with Joe Nathan (above comment). Ban automatic weapons, institute gun buyback program. Australia did it and it worked “really, really well.”

    See “After a 1996 Mass Shooting, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Similar Massacre Since”:

    PS I grew up in Newtown–it is within our power as a country to make sure this never happens again to another community.


  6. On Dec 18, 2012, at 12:34 PM, Lynn Green wrote:

    > As a mother of two daughters working in the education system in inner city Boston I totally agree.
    > My daughters are US citizens but I live in Canada and am appalled at the attitude of some Americans feeling they have a right to bear arms. I think the US Constitution is interpreted way too literally and it needs to be remembered by policy makers that it was written in a much different time hundreds of years ago.
    > The NRA is way too powerful and holds too much influence over politicians. It is time to remove their power and think of our children and our teachers who put their life on the line every day especially in this environment.
    > Thank you for taking the lead on this.
    > Lynn Green
    > Sent from my iPad


  7. Here’s my view: Assault weapons must be banned, pure and simple. No weapon that holds more than 10 bullets should be legal. No automatic or semi-automatic weapons. Period, end of sentence, full stop. These are not for hunting. They are for killing people.

    I agree 100%. Semi-automatic weapons and the access to almost unlimited ammunition have become a great danger to our peace, safety and security. No one needs an AR-15 with 30 round banana clips to defend his home or to hunt. Weapons like these are for ASSAULT for attacking in military situation. Guns like this should only be in the hands of the police, National Guard or active military. If these guns are not banned they should be heavily taxed and restricted.


  8. Here’s some meaningful action: Peter Bouchard, the CEO of Pioneer Telephone, wrote to all Pioneer’s customers about the Sandy Hook tragedy. His closing sentence is the best comment I’ve heard or read about this heart breaking event –

    “It has been said that keeping great evil at bay, takes a great power. I believe however it takes showing small acts of kindness to your loved ones, neighbors and complete strangers that makes the world a much better place.”

    There is no simple cure to the situation we face because of decades of evolution of our culture and laws. Most consequences of this evolution are positive, but some are horrific.

    In this holiday season, and in the new year, I hope I can keep Mr. Bouchard’s advice in mind, and that our national, state and local leaders – and all of our citizens – with do likewise!


    • perhaps there is no simple cure, but surely banning the sale and possession of weapons of mass murder is an essential first step.


  9. More people are killed EVERY day from drunk driving crashes than were killed at Sandy Hook. We must ban assault vehicles. TEN times as many die every day dur to hospital/doctor mistakes. We must ban assault hospitals and assault doctors.


  10. No, to point out what a throw away term it is. Anything used as a weapon is an “assault” weapon – even a frying pan in the hands of a wife whose been cheated on. Just because it’s a “scary” term doesn’t make your point more effective.


  11. Bottom line question: do you believe that the sale and possession of weapons that can fire hundreds of rounds in seconds should be legally available? Playing with words like ‘assault’ is a diversion, so let’s cut to the chase.l


    • Do you believe the sale and possession of “automatic” (or manual) vehicles that kill more people every day via drunk driving accidents than died at Sandy Hook should be legally available? The “diversion” is blaming the illegal actions of a few not on what they did but on what they used to do it. I’ve never used any weapon of mine to kill anyone, just as I’m sure you’ve never used your car to do so.


      • Your failure to engage is revealing. So you think people ought to be able to possess these weapons? Why?


      • John,

        After receiving the first 911 call of possible gun fire at Sandy Hook, it took 20 minutes for the police and other first responders to arrive at the school. When police finally approached the murder, he killed himself before they even fired a single shot.

        Given the response time of law enforcement, the gun control measures advocated above would have changed the results of tragedy. The person who committed these murders could have been armed with revolvers, and so long as he knew how to use them, he still would have had sufficient time to kill just as many innocents.

        The problem with the present “debate” on guns is that it is actually devoid of any meaningful facts or statistics, in part, I suspect, because the facts and statistics don’t actually support more gun control. For example, individual gun ownership is not really a distinctive feature of American society. Gallop found last year that 34% of all Americans owned guns (which I believe is the highest rate since 1993). But in Europe alone, Finland (39%), Norway (36%), France (30%), and Germany (30%) all have comparable levels of individual gun ownership. Moreover, while gun ownership has increased in the U.S., the murder rate has fallen by 60% over the last 3 decades. In 1980, the U.S. had a murder rate of 10.2 per every 100,000 citizens. In 2010, that number had fallen to 4.2.

        There is also no correlation between an increase in gun control and a decrease in violent crime. In 2004, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its evaluation from a review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some original empirical research. It failed to identify any gun control that had reduced violent crime, suicide, or gun accidents. A 2003 review by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control of the then-existing studies reached the same conclusion. Moreover, the United Kingdom, which completely banned hand guns and several long guns in the late 1990s has since experienced a significant rise in violent crimes.

        The issue of gun control is a difficult and emotional one that is often shaped by personal experiences (I am likely inclined to believe in individual gun ownership because my grandfather once had to use his handgun in self defense). It’s important that we use actual facts and not raw emotion when discussing and shaping our country’s gun laws.

        Click to access Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf


  12. Because when a small minority misuse a legal product in an illegal manner, the answer isn’t to completely ban the legal product. That’s why we don’t ban cars despite drunk drivers, we didn’t ban knives despite OJ, we don’t ban swimming pools even though kids are 7x more likely to drown than get shot and we don’t ban bleach even though a student at Central Michigan University used it to poison their roommate a couple weeks ago.


      • If you’re going to make statements, you should try to know what you’re talking about. The vast majority of “assault” weapons are simply semi-automatic weapons with extra features such as a pistol grip or bayonet holder that do not make them deadlier in any meaningful way. And semi-automatics cannot “spray hundreds of bullets in seconds.” Instead, pulling the trigger on a semi-automatic gun will only fire a single round.

        As for automatic weapons, they are already very difficult (if not impossible) to buy legally. And those that can be purchased legally are very expensive (an M-16 costs approximately $15,000).


  13. Greg,

    It seems like you know about guns so please help me out, I want the facts.

    I have read that each cartridge Adam brought to school held 30 bullets. Is that correct? How many cartridges do you think an adrenaline pumped teenager (who has experience firing guns) could whip through in less than a minute? How many bullets in 60 seconds? Really, I want to know.

    I believe the shooter in Colorado had a 100 round magazine. How many seconds would it take to fire one round with 100 bullets?

    I have also not been able to find exactly how many rounds Adam did fire but read that he arrived with a stockpile of “hundreds” of bullets and that he shot “up to 11 bullets in each victims body.” This article is a must read for those who want to learn about the AR15 style rifle:

    In trying to find out more about the gun that Adam used, I also read this article in Guns&Amo that gives a good description about how bullets work:

    “When talking about the effectiveness of rifle bullets on people, ballisticians and armchair commandos throw around a number of technical terms, such as “hydrostatic shock” and “temporary wound cavity.” The simple fact is that the more of its energy a bullet can dump into a target, the more effective it will be. Full metal jacketed ammunition has a tendency to zip right through, and while the resulting wound might cause the person to bleed to death, until they do there’s a good chance they’ll go on posing a threat. Projectiles designed either to stop in the body or cause a great deal of tissue upset work much better at immediately stopping the threat. That’s why police talk about the “stopping power” of a cartridge rather than its “killing power.” When using rifle ammunition with projectiles designed specifically for personal defense, such as Winchester’s new .223 PDX1 loadings, fragmentation is assured. Bullets striking an intruder will separate into smaller, lighter pieces and—most likely—not overpenetrate and exit the body as errant shrapnel.”

    Do we know what kind of bullets Adam used? Did they shatter in the bodies of the victims or did they overpenetrate and exit as errant shrapnel? Do you know? If so, please share.

    Now, please explain your reasoning as to why private citizens should have access to this weapon. I mean, comparatively speaking it doesn’t kill that many people in this country, but why should anyone, including a housewife in suburban CT have the right to possess this weapon?

    Respectfully, Cat


    • This is not logical. If America lets themselves be disarmed, expect more tyranny and more crime. Don’t be fools. Don’t buy this Bull Crap. Buy as many semi-auto’s


  14. Guns are not the problem people… people are the problem. Should be BAN knifes and cars from people? They have the same ability to kill people.

    The way we are raised by our parents and friends shape the way we think and act. Most of the people I associate with who own guns use them for sport or fun, by taking the family down to the gun range. There is a level of respect for the weapon taught each time they are using them. I don’t see why people blame the weapon when it isn’t the problem.


  15. This is not logical. Moral Decay is the problem – not weapons.

    It should come as no surprise that the rate of mass shootings at schools and in other public places is increasing. The surge has nothing to do with guns, which have been widely available in the U.S. for years. Gun control laws have been increasing. Instead, there is a direct correlation between the increase in violence and the gradual degradation of morals, ethics and parenting. We are cultivating mental illness in our society.

    Parents are allowing television and video games to increasingly babysit their children, even though both have become full of gratuitous violence. A New York Times study of rampage killers found that six of them were into violent video games. Research shows that violent video games and television desensitize people and promote aggressive behavior, despite claims to the contrary. A research scientist at the University of Michigan found that television was responsible for 10% of youth violence. Parents today are neglecting their children, and when things don’t go well, rushing to get divorced instead of trying to work things out first. Children suffer emotionally when their parents fight or split up. Parents are ignoring their children so much they don’t even see the warning signs that something might be wrong. The New York Times study found that 63 of 100 rampage killers had made threats of violence before the event.


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