Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Dallas....The carnage continues, as does racism and the violence it inevitably brings. Must we live with its inevitability? Is there any hope we can at least reduce the casualties per shoot-out?
It is widely and correctly said, if you want a preview of things to come, look to California and the other Left Coast states with Pacific Ocean frontage. And if you weren’t looking last week amid the distracting avalanche of major news events shaking up the world, know that California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law six gun control measures. The week before that Hawaii’s governor, David Ige, signed into state law the most restrictive gun control legislation in the nation: already with the lowest gun deaths per capita, Hawaii tightened down further by putting all local gun-owners in a Federal criminal record data base. If an owner or applicant is arrested anywhere in the country, the FBI will notify Hawaiian police and they will determine whether the owner can continue to legally own a firearm.
Governor Brown’s gun control actions are much more modest. Of the six measures he signed into law, one requires buyers of ammunition for semiautomatic rifles to undergo background checks; another is a ban of the sale of automatic rifles equipped with “bullet buttons” that facilitate the quick removal and replacement of magazines. Brown, traditionally a skeptic on the efficacy of gun control legislation, also vetoed five gun measures brought to his desk.
That did not deter the ever-vigilant defenders of your Second Amendment right to slaughter your fellow citizens to come down hard on the lame-duck governor. Amy Hunter, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action said Brown “signed a draconian gun control package that turns California’s law-abiding gun owners into second class citizens. The governor and legislature exploited a terrorist attack to push these measures through even though the state’s already restrictive laws did nothing to stop the attack in San Bernardino.”
Strange use of the word “exploitation,” with all its negative connotations. How about substituting the word “protection,” as in protecting our citizens from another San Bernardino or Orlando type attack? And “draconian?” Really? The word means “unusually severe or cruel,” and comes to us by way of Draco, an ancient Athenian statesman whose code of laws prescribed death for the most minor of offenses. So it’s “unusually cruel” to force you into a background check to buy ammo for semi-automatic rifles? Really? That’s going to be a hard sell in California.
Of course, chop logic and word abuse is nothing new for the NRA and its satellite groups. You know, “guns don’t kill people; people do.” (Ever hear of a drive-by knifing?) It’s reminiscent of the old tobacco lobby dodge: “Cigarettes don’t kill people; cancer does.”
We are told by pollsters that 90 percent of Americans favor some type of gun control. Yet nothing ever happens at the federal level, nor should you expect it in the foreseeable future. Forget about all that fussing and snorting in Congress last month in the wake of the Orlando massacre that “something must be done.” That was just Kabuki theatre. The Republican so-called Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives went home for the Fourth of July holiday, shot off their store of fireworks, and suddenly remembered who owned them. They have bottled up gun control legislation in the House...and therefore the Congress. Will the Dallas slaughter of police officers with automatic rifle fire change their minds? I wouldn’t bet on it.
It is a predictive sign of our splintering times that states are taking matters into their own hands, some choosing to tighten gun-access restrictions, others to loosen them. California and Hawaii rank in the top seven for strictest gun laws by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, along with Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. Tellingly, Illinois at number eight just missed making the top tier; it has the misfortune of being surrounded by five states with permissive gun laws, and weapons traffic moves across state lines with deadly ease.
Californians wanting more done to curb gun violence than their governor’s cautious measures do need not wait long to take action on their own. On the state ballot this November is a proposition strongly backed by liberal Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the Democrat favored to succeed Brown as governor in 2018. It promises to be strong medicine for the gun violence that ails us, and will finally test the pollsters’ claim that Americans overwhelmingly want gun laws tightened and the gun lobby’s power reduced. We shall see.
B. N. Some of you know I’m currently deep into my tenth book, tentatively titled A Left Coast Manifesto: Why the Pacific States Should Secede and Form Their Own More Perfect Union; it should be out in the next six months. I’m predicting here and now that in Pacifica, the new nation composed of the four former states California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii, we will act against the epidemic of gun violence in ways that would please our original founding fathers, rational men who couldn’t imagine citizens packing AR-15s on village streets.