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Shane Vander Hart: Politicizing Sandy Hook

It is unfortunate that the families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Americans in general have not even had the chance to mourn before this horrific event is being turned into a political opportunity.  I knew it was coming, it always does after an event such as this, but I had hoped, naively I suppose, that our elected officials who favor gun control would at least wait a week or two.

Like I said that was a naïve wish.  President Obama unfortunately decided to politicize the interfaith prayer service last night.  During his remarks he said:

We can’t tolerate this anymore.  These tragedies must end.  And to end them, we must change.  We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true.  No single law — no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.

But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.  Surely, we can do better than this.  If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that — then surely we have an obligation to try.

In the coming weeks, I will use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens — from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators — in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.  Because what choice do we have?  We can’t accept events like this as routine.  Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?  Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?

I agree that no single law – or set of laws can eliminate evil from the world.  The root cause of events such as these can never be solved politically.  So on one hand President Obama admits politically the process has limits.  On the other hand he says he wants attempt to end these tragedies through legislation.

Legislation can make a difference, but it’s not likely to be the kind that President Obama offers.  President Obama was not alone in politicizing Sandy Hook, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) issued a statement today.  He said:

Though the details of this tragedy are still unfolding, one thing is clear: it is time to address increasing gun violence in this country.  As a hunter, I know that the recreational use and collection of guns is important to many Iowans and I will work to protect the legitimate rights of law-abiding American gun owners.  But we need to ask whether people need unlimited access to any arms, including those capable of shooting hundreds of bullets in a very short time.  We can support gun rights while continuing to support responsible legislation to reduce crime and make our schools and communities safer.  Each of these goals is important and I believe that they can be accomplished simultaneously.

Congressman Dave Loebsack (D-IA) also called for more gun control in a statement issued to Bleeding Heartland:

While there are no quick fixes, it is time for our country to have a national conversation about how to address the troubling frequency with which lives have been cut short by senseless violence. We must sit down and look at proposals that will protect Iowans’ well-established Second Amendment rights while keeping these sorts of horrific attacks from taking place.   I believe any conversation must look at ways to deal with military-style assault weapons and extended clips as well as mental health care.

The 2nd Amendment was meant for more than hunting and recreational gun use.  It was written in light of the armed rebellion that occurred just years prior.  I wouldn’t be exercising my right to free speech, nor would any political opinions be expressed if it were not for Americans bearing arms to overthrow a tyrannical government.  So let’s not pretend that hunting was what the founders had in mind when they wrote the 2nd Amendment that was later ratified by the states.  Hunting is a byproduct of the right, but not the intent of the right – protecting life and liberty is and it is endowed by our Creator, not something government can take away try as they might.

Also what have gun control laws and gun free zones accomplished?  Relatively nothing.  A certain theater in Colorado was a gun free zone.  Schools are gun free zones.  Shootings still occur there.  All they do is limit people who are law abiding citizens – period.  I’m not saying loosing the restrictions would have prevented any loss of life, but potentially it could have.  It is possible that a person with a carry permit possibly stoppedJacob Tyler Roberts from killing more people in an Oregon shopping mall.

Gun bans internationally have not stopped acts of mass violence as what we saw in China the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting:

in China, knife-wielding individuals had been caught on more than two occasions causing harm on school children, teachers and a elderly civilian.

China’s state-run news agency Xinhua said in a report that a 35-year-old-man suddenly went on a stabbing rampage on Friday, inflicting cuts and bruises on 23 residents–22 of which are students aged 8 to 12 years old on their way to school.

In Shanghai, a day-care helper went deranged and hurt children ages 3 to 4 years old with a box cutter recently. However, in the year 2010, a man stabbed to death eight students at the gate of their school and injured five.

Timothy McVeigh did not require an assault weapon or even a handgun.  Neither did the 9/11 hijackers.  Again the root cause of violence is not the instrument used.  Guns are no more responsible for killing people than my spoon is for making me fat.  It takes a person who decides to take human life (or in the case of my illustration to eat unhealthy foods).  Once that decision is made they will try to carry it out anyway they can whether it is a knife, an AR-15 or a bomb.

Regarding banning assault weapons, an editorial in National Review today points out the problem with that:

Simply put, so-called “assault weapons” are nowhere near the root of the American violence problem. According to FBI data, of the two-thirds of murders that involve firearms, about 69 percent involve handguns rather than rifles or shotguns of any kind. Most estimates place the contribution of assault weapons to gun crime at around 1 or 2 percent. These numbers should not be surprising: Rifles are difficult to conceal, and a criminal who decides to use a rifle has little reason to prefer an assault weapon over any other semiautomatic option. Contrary to popular myth, assault weapons fire only once for each pull of the trigger; they are not machine guns.

Regarding Congressman Loebsack’s suggestion to discuss banning extended clips, the editors of National Review write:

A limit on magazine capacity (which was also part of the federal ban) is by far the more plausible of the proposed measures, seeing that Gabrielle Giffords’s shooter was tackled while reloading his gun. However, other shooters (such as those at Columbine and Virginia Tech) have had no problem reloading, and still others (such as those at the Aurora movie theater and possibly the Oregon mall) have experienced jams while using high-capacity magazines. The net effect of such legislation would almost certainly be statistically indistinguishable from zero.

While we all want to see events like what happened in Newtown, CT be prevented we can not dilute or diminish our constitutional rights out of fear.  Especially on legislation that will likely do little good anyway.


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