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Another Week, Another Public Massacre, Another Missed Opportunity to Ban Assault Weapons

“So, why did Congress decide to let that assault weapons ban expire?

Well, it was 2004. Democrats had lost control of the House, so they were starting to feel shy about pushing for the assault.”

-          Business Insider report, December 16,2012

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I am going to take a break from the usual, and usually just, weekly partisanship in which I engage on this site to write about a problem that all of us own, and all of us need to fix. Now. It is the proliferation of assault weapons that are making the workplace, public spaces and even grade schools threatening venues for regular folks just trying to make it through the day.

In December of last year, NRA Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre famously said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” LaPierre recorded this bit of wisdom for posterity as an argument in favor of posting armed guards in schools across the country. The implicit subtext was that those against weapons stockpiles in the classroom are simply not in favor of protecting our children.

At the time of LaPierre’s outrageous utterance, I feared it wouldn’t be long before a case would present itself that would blow all sorts of holes in the trigger happy lobbyist’s theory. And sadly, this morning, the country turned on their television sets, car stereos and booted up their computers to learn of another instance of horrific violence brought about by the country’s absurdly lax gun policies.

The New York Times is reporting that “A gunman was dead and the police were looking for two other potential gunmen after a shooting Monday morning that left multiple people dead and injured at a naval office building not far from Capitol Hill and the White House, according to law enforcement officials.”

Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured, deceased and their families during this terrible time and collectively, I am certain that a wish for the quick apprehension of the masterminds crosses party lines. But here’s where the problem lies for me, as pertains to the NRA’s consistently rehashed argument that more guns are the answer to preventing tragedies such as this. According to reporting from Michael D. Shear, Emmarie Huetteman and Abby Goodnough, “The Navy Yard is a secure military facility, with guards posted at gates and a large wall surrounding the buildings.”

So it would seem in this instance that a number of “good guys” with guns, inside a facility that likely had emergency protocols and procedures in place and well-rehearsed, were not sufficient to undermine the will of a few crazies armed to the teeth. Janis Orlowski, the chief medical officer at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where a number of victims are receiving treatment, was characterized by journalists as being of the opinion that “the gun used in the attack was most likely a semiautomatic rifle.”

As I stated at the opening of this piece, we all own this issue. Democratic political cowardice under the Bush II administration is partially responsible for the serious public safety crisis we have today. This rising, terrifying threat has been compounded by the successful and dirty lobbying on behalf of gun manufacturers with which the NRA engages at local, state and national levels.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Declaration of Independence was written before the Constitution and no one’s right to bear arms trumps my right to life. Though I never wish to own or fire a weapon myself, I don’t begrudge anyone’s desire to maintain a small stockpile for hunting and security purposes.

But I can’t be convinced that an AR-15, which can fire up to 700 rounds per minute, is anything more advanced than a human killing machine, or that the forefathers could have envisioned such a tool when they enshrined that “right to bear arms.”

It’s time for all of us, across party lines to stand together and tell our local representatives, our Governors, the U.S. Congress and the President, “enough.” Enough of the mass public executions and the labeling of citizens who want common sense gun reform to reduce the incidence of these atrocities as “un-American.” What is unpatriotic is continuing to condone the death of innocent civilians because our elected officials are scared of disappointing the NRA.

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