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Wrestle With Guns

Posted on 03 August 2012

By Karl Grossman

The massacre in Aurora has reverberated here and across the nation. Questions being asked include: how could the federal ban on the manufacture for civilian use of assault weapons  —firearms designed specifically to kill people — have been allowed to lapse? Also: how does the violence that permeates many Hollywood movies these days impact on violence in society? And, will there be needed changes or will this tragedy like the other shooting sprees of recent years pass only to be followed by the next massacre?

A local official with extensive knowledge about violence is Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. She worked for the Department of Peacekeeping at the UN and has a degree in human rights and conflict resolution from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

“I think the American people are being misled by that faction that’s so pro-gun and claims it’s a black-and-white issue — you’re either allowed to carry arms or not,” she commented last week. “There are ways to regulate access and use on the part of civilians of weapons.” It’s “mind-boggling” that in the U.S. someone “can go into a store and buy an assault weapon.”

Indeed, although the federal law involving assault weapons was permitted to lapse, there’s been — and continues to be — a prohibition in New York State on the sale of such guns, notes State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor.

“This is not about trying to outlaw guns. What we’re talking about are automatic weapons which have one purpose only, and that’s to kill people.” But New York State is “part of a larger country” and “a lot of guns” involved with crime in New York “come from the South and out west.”  And, said Mr. Thiele, “we have a lack of action on the federal level.”

The New York Times in an editorial last week noted that when “campaigning for office in 2008, Barack Obama vowed to reinstate the assault weapons ban that had expired in 2004.

That would have prohibited the AR-15 rifle [a version of the military M-16] used in the Colorado theatre shooting….But as president, “Mr. Obama has made no attempt to do so.”

Meanwhile, his 2012 rival, Mitt Romney, “banned assault weapons as governor of Massachusetts…but now he opposes all gun control measures.” Another editorial three days later further criticizing them was titled: “Candidates Cower on Gun Control.”

As to the federal representative from this area, Tim Bishop, his communications director Oliver Longwell says: “Congressman Bishop believes Second Amendment rights are compatible with common sense regulations to protect the public. Generally, laws currently in place in New York State, including a ban on assault-type weapons and large capacity magazines, are an appropriate standard for the nation.”

Democrat Bishop’s Republican opponent this year, Randy Altschuler, said: “There are plenty of politicians out there right now pandering to voters by calling for more gun control laws as if this were some magic pill to prevent future Aurora, Colorados from happening. I think most common sense people realize that all the gun control laws in the world won’t stop an unstable, violent person from securing a gun and committing a heinous crime. If it did, the answer to all this would be easy.”

What about violence in movies?  Being inflicted by coming attractions in theaters these days is some experience — one ultra-violent film after another. In college I wrote a novel reviewed by a professor who advised: “You’ve got to kill some people” — to up the “tension.” A cheap trick. Greek dramas and Shakespeare’s plays, yes, include violence, but not the extraneous, ridiculous violence out of Hollywood today to hype “tension.” Cheap tricks and dangerous.

Director Peter Bogdanovich said last week that “violence on the screen has increased tenfold….There’s too much murder and killing….It numbs the audience into thinking it’s not so terrible.”

It’s not only Hollywood. “Violent video games played by children — their brains still developing—blur the line for some kids between reality and fantasy,” comments Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk, a former teacher. The massacre also shows we “need to do more to detect mental illnesses” and deal with that. He also wonders how the Aurora shooter so easily obtained thousands of bullets. “In the age of [the Department of] Homeland Security, for it not to be picked up when someone orders this much ammunition, I can’t believe it.”  The first Times editorial last week was aptly titled: “6,000 Bullets, There is no constitutional right to build a secret ammunition dump.”

The issues must be grappled with and not avoided again, with the National Rifle Association leading the way in blocking action.

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5 Responses to “Wrestle With Guns”

  1. TL671 says:

    Three points you either are ignorant of, or out right lying about.

    1)The “assault weapons ban” did not ban anything. It caused manufacturers to remove cosmetic features from their rifles such as flash hiders, bayonet lugs. Seriously, when was the last time you heard of anyone being bayoneted to death? Every single so called “assault weapon” was still available for sail the entire 10 years of the “ban”.

    2)Rifles of any kind are used in far less than 1% of firearms related crime, with so called “assault weapons” being used in .0026% of firearms related crime.

    3)If your precious “assault weapons ban” was so effective, why has firearms crime gone down by 13% since it expired?

  2. TL671 says:

    *sale, not sail obviously.

  3. Tahawus says:

    Mr. Thiele is ignorant. The assault weapons ban only dealt with semi-automatic firearms. Full automatic firearms, or machine guns, are hardly ever used in crimes in the United States. And the only differences between the guns banned (not really banned since existing ones were grandfathered) by the expired federal and permanent state assault weapons ban and semi-automatic guns legal in New York State are the requirement to have a fixed stock, no bayonet lug and no flashhider, generally speaking. Otherwise the guns are identical.

  4. Marc says:

    I guess NY State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. doesn’t know, that automatic weapons have nothing to do with the Clinton “Assault Weapons” Ban, automatic weapons take 6-months to be approved, before the purchaser can pick it up from the dealer, and are very strictly regulated under the 1934 National Firearms Act; must be registered with the FBI; can not be transported out of state, without approval; can not be inherited, without approval; can not be owned by civilians, unless registered before May 15, 1986; are illegal in NY, since 1934; and carry severe penalties, for ownership, without prior FBI approval but why confuse him with facts.

  5. DHS says:

    This is the same ignorant argument I hear all the time from the gun ban camp. Holme’s AR-15 was not an assault rifle. It was not automatic. You cannot just walk into a store, and walk out with an automatic firearm. You can walk out with a semi-auto firearm, if you pass a criminal background check. Millions of Americans own these semi-automatic rifles, and they don’t kill anything with them. The reason many are based on military patterns, is simply because manufacturers made a civilian market version of the firearms they already built for the military. They do away with the full auto so the guns cannot be easily converted, make any other changes needed to comply with civilian laws, and sell them to target shooters, hunters, and competition shooters.

    The fact that someone with a mental issue legally buys a firearms and then uses it in a massacre, is not indicative of a problem with firearms, but rather that such people are not getting the help they need, and are left to degrade to the point at which they decide to kill. Even if you did remove firearms, they are still intent on killing, they can use bombs or fire or cars or knives, or really just about anything that could me used to kill. Wake up. The problem is not guns. The problem is the mentally ill people and criminals who should be under control, not out free to cause chaos (most mentally ill people are not a threat to others, but those that are should be getting the help they need, not out free plotting to kill).

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