Sunday, June 12, 2016

An Open Letter to Congress

Dear Members of Congress,


There aren't a lot of issues out there that I haven't at some point changed my mind about, thought through differently, or tweaked my nuances. However, there are a couple, and I'm writing you (again) about one today. I'm also publishing this on my blog, and some of the people that read my blog are going to be mad, but you know what. After the last mass killings, I was advised to keep quiet, and I just can't do it anymore. Unfriend me, this is that important to me.


Yesterday, the largest mass killing occurred in Orlando. The weapon that was used for the largest part of the killing was a military style assault rifle, purchased legally.


Here's the deal. When law enforcement is investigating a crime, they look at two things: motive and means. There isn't a darn thing you or I or anyone else not in relationship with a person can do about motive, but there sure is something we can do about means, and frankly, you, CONGRESS, bear some responsibility for the means here.


You let the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act expire in 2004. Since then, you have sat on your laurels and decried acts of violence in this country that have continued to increase, but have done nothing, NOTHING, to attempt to put into place even the most common sense gun regulations. People on the federal no-fly list can't get on an airplane, but can legally purchase a weapon. That's some pretty low hanging fruit there, and you haven't bothered to raise a finger to bat it down.


The only conclusion I can come to, is that up until today, you have been either so in the pockets or afraid of the gun lobby (who, make NO mistake, is less concerned about anyone's second amendment rights than they are of driving up the profit margins of gun manufacturers. Check the NRA's major funders if you have questions) that you would rather let people die than tackle a hard issue. Shame. On. You.


Fix it.


Today.


Do not let another day go by without doing something, because if you have skin in this country, you're in the game and you are at risk. Scream about terrorism or mental health issues or bad upbringing all you want, but the reality is that YOU are allowing these people to have access to the weapons they are using, for whatever motive, to kill others.


I know in all reality that you are never going to go as far as I would want you to. Another time, we can debate the second amendment, and what that first half of the amendment (the one the NRA regularly forgets to quote) "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State..." means. What I think is clear in the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" does not include completely unfettered access to any and all arms. (In case you were wondering, the 1994 ban was challenged in court 7 times and won every one. Last week, the federal appeals court in California ruled that there is no constitutional guarantee for a concealed weapon. Jurisprudence is not on the side of "all guns, all the time.")


Start with the no-fly list, but don't stop there.


Restrict assault weapons. Make them illegal to own as a civilian. Round them up. Pay people for them. Ban manufacturers from making them for civilian use as you did in 1994. Ronald Reagan supported that, as did Jimmy Carter, and basically every law enforcement officer I know.


If you, member of Congress, own an assault style rifle with a semi or fully automatic feature, you are going to have a really hard time selling me that you "need" this for your own defense. There are no hoards of zombies attacking your house, en masse. If you "need" an assault rifle to protect yourself from an intruder or for hunting (a la The Distinguished Gentleman, perhaps?), all this means is you are a really bad shot and you need to take some classes, not that you need a this gun. Set an example and give it up.


Institute buy back programs.


I could go on about background checks and closing loopholes.


Will this solve all gun violence? No. Would this have stopped last night's killings? Not all of them, but, and I can't believe I am evening saying this, it could have reduced them. It is no coincidence that the largest mass killing happened with an AK-47 and not a hand gun or long gun.


There are legitimate reasons for owning guns. We had one set of neighbors who rely exclusively on hunting for their meat source. Hunting for food is legitimate, whether it's your primary source or not. We were in Alaska once where I learned the value of snowmobiling with a gun, as moose can get aggressive, even unprovoked, especially during calving season. I could name other general and specific examples. None of these reasons, however, require an assault weapon to be effective.


We have to start somewhere, and YOU have to do SOMETHING. Get out of the pockets of gun manufacturers, recognize that a "poor rating" from the NRA is more politics and not substance, and start getting real. You've done it before, and you can do it again.


I look forward to hearing from you.

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