It’s way too early to start popping champagne corks in celebration of meaningful gun control legislation. The only pops you’re going continue to hear are the pop, pop, pops of the 300 million plus (and climbing) firearms in the hands of America’s gun owners ranging in mien from perfectly reasonable and responsible to the out of control hair-trigger Tommy DeVito-types, a character who was the deranged killer (based on a real person) played by Joe Pesci in the mob movie Goodfellas; “Whatta you mean I’m funny? Funny how, am I a clown, do I amuse you?”
Headlines blare “Gun control gains momentum.” The other headline featured in my local paper was about the 4-year-old accidentally shooting a 6-year-old to death. Let’s break down the hopeful gun control headlines. So divorced from adult governance has Congress become that we actually celebrate the fact that a critical issue is likely to come to a vote. Some kind of deal born with tortoise-like speed between a West Virginia Democrat and a Pennsylvania Republican has reporters believing their legislative hatchling will be “broadened background checks.” It makes no difference what the Senate vote (if there is one) on the ‘compromise’ turns out to be. The House will kill any effective efforts to change gun laws. As I’ve written many times before, so-called “tougher restrictions” would just be a matter of tweaking what’s on the books right now.
Even if Obama manages to shame the House into approving the issue (not in my lifetime), background checks aren’t really the problem. CNN reports that in the last 25 years 2.1 million potential gun buyers were rejected because they failed the background check. That’s a good-sized city, but less that 2% of the total applicants numbering 118 million. And my guess is they walked out and either sweet-talked the girlfriend into a straw purchase or bought their weapon(s) off the stubble-faced guy in the alley.
The claim is that the new law would be expanded to cover all for-profit gun transactions, including gun shows and the Internet. Records would be kept by gun-dealers with a Federal Firearms License (FFL). For a gun show of any size, I already see a logistics nightmare. About ½ the vendors at gun shows have FFL’s. But are they considered dealers? Can they run their own background checks? If not, there will be bureaucratic hell to pay. Attendance can be as low as 1,000 or so for a small one-day show or upwards of 10-15,000 for a weekender. Multiply those numbers by the roughly 5,000 shows each year. Then there’s the matter of 55,000 gun dealers. I can’t imagine the feds being able to keep accurate track of all that paperwork.
So-called noncommercial sales are not covered, so cousin Zeke can sell a veritable arsenal to his perpetually drunk and angry cousin, Winky whenever he feels like it. Likely scenario, squeaky clean Zeke, goes to the gun show; buys the perfectly legal semi-autos (any move to prohibit sales already swept off the congressional table), and sells them to old Winky. And what is noncommercial anyway?
I’m beginning to tire of this issue. The real ‘knock down the doors sales’ should now be for bullet-proof vests. Nothing else is changing. Over the last few years, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, statisticians could rely on 31-32,000 annual gun deaths with suicides leading the way. One of the more recent suicide victims was Matthew Warren, the 27-year-old son of Rick Warren, famed pastor and author (The Purpose Driven Life) and deliverer of the Inaugural Invocation for Barack Obama’s first term as president. Young Warren took his life Friday morning, April 5th.
As a parent of 5 adult children, I sympathize and empathize with the deep grief the Warren family must be feeling. It does not make the deed any less tragic that Matthew, himself, foreshadowed his fate years before the fact. In an email to staff, Warren recalled a conversation with his son ten years prior when Matthew said, “Dad, I know I’m going to heaven. Why can’t I just die and end this pain?” Ten years later, he “ended the pain” by his own hand with a gun.
In the same email, Pastor Warren conceded that his son killed himself “in a momentary wave of despair at the end of a lifetime struggle with mental illness, dark holes of depression and even suicidal thoughts.”
Rick Warren is not one of my favorite people. He deems gays as being less than worthy of marriage and he’s one of those preachers who have amassed huge fortunes, highly unseemly for such a calling. Though ostensibly tithing most of his book profits back to his Saddleback church, Warren’s net worth is nonetheless estimated at $11-$25 million, an absurd figure for a man of God. What is truly remarkable is that, as far as I know, Warren has not mentioned the fact that a gun was used in his son’s suicide.
My local right-wing paper never mentioned that fact either. Monday, April 8, the autopsy results were announced, confirming that Matthew had died as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I called the Sheriff’s (the coroner is located in the same facility) office in Santa Ana and asked the coroner’s staff what kind of gun was used. They refused to tell me unless I was connected to the family or the case.
The LA Times indicated that a source close to the investigation said it was a shotgun. A Sheriff’s Department spokesman said it was “probably” not Matthew’s gun. I’m sure the Warren people are working day and night to absolve the pastor of any blame in having an obviously troubled and suicidal son with ready access to a gun. If it wasn’t Matthew’s gun, he acquired it illegally. If it was, the background check system failed. And if I lived as close to a troubled child as the Warren’s apparently did, wouldn’t I check to make sure such a weapon was absent the premises?
It would never do to have one of the most high-profile Evangelical’s son succumb to the very instrument of destruction that progressives have warned about for years. It’s extraordinary that the NRA and gun manufacturers have such a hold on this society that even a highly-respected conservative pastor dare not speak a single negative word about guns in the wake of losing a loved one.
That’s proof-positive that only elected Democrats are going to move this country forward.
Update 9:34 PM: New York Times reported, “Pastor Rick Warren said his son killed himself with an unregistered gun he purchased through the Internet.
Warren sent a tweet Thursday saying he forgives whoever sold the weapon to his 27-year-old son Matthew, who committed suicide last Friday.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department is trying to find the seller but it won’t be easy. The gun’s serial number was scratched off, making it impossible to trace, spokesman Jim Amormino said. “
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
Follow me on Twitter @demwriter