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If not now, when?

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

In 1993, Carolyn McCarthy was a nurse living in Mineola, NY, a suburb of Long Island. On the evening of December 7th of that year, her husband was murdered and her adult son severely injured when spree killer, Colin Ferguson, opened fire on a Long Island Railroad car. In 1996, Ms. McCarthy was elected to the US House of Representatives, beating a freshman incumbent. It was the tragic death of her husband that propelled her to run for Congress on the platform of strengthening gun laws in this country. Since her election to the House, she has been the fiercest advocates for gun safety and yet the Federal Assault Weapons Ban has sunset and exactly one gun safety law has been passed:

The NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007 which amends the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act to: (1) authorize the Attorney General to obtain electronic versions of information from federal agencies on persons disqualified from receiving firearms; (2) require federal agencies to provide such information to the Attorney General, not less frequently than quarterly; and (3) require federal agencies to update, correct, modify, or remove obsolete records and notify the Attorney General of such actions to keep the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) up to date. Requires the Attorney General to submit annual reports to Congress on the compliance of federal agencies with such reporting requirements.  It essentially makes it easier for states and the federal government to share files on who is or is not allowed to purchase a firearm.

During the 112th Congress, which ends in just two weeks, Representative McCarthy has introduced four bills addressing gun violence and the ease at which one can purchase a high capacity military grade weapon for “protecting their homes”: Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act, Gun Show Loophole Closing Act of 2011, Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011, and Stop Online Ammunition Sales Act of 2012. All four of these bills are currently in committee and will need to be reintroduced during the 113th Congress, which begins on January 6th. Thus starting the process over again. A process of getting an introduction, co-sponsors, sponsorship in the Senate, getting through committee and the possibility of a conference and cloture votes, and then, maybe, hopefully, the President’s desk.

This is the reality. This is why dialogue will and can happen, but the real need is for action. It’s getting through the National Rifle Association and to the millions of citizens who are responsible gun owners and those who claim that it will be a cold day in hell before ‘The Government’ takes their guns away. All because of their 2nd Amendment rights. They have the right to bear arms, that is correct, just as we all have the right to speak freely thanks to the 1st Amendment. But if anything about the latter has taught us anything it is that yes, you do have the right to voice your opinions, as vile as they may be, but that doesn’t mean you can do so without consequence. Just because it is in the Bill of Rights doesn’t mean there aren’t parameters put in place, not to prevent one’s freedom, but for the good of society at large. And that is what 2nd Amendment advocates forget. Yes, you are allowed to own a gun, but that ownership requires regulations.

What happened on Friday was a tragedy that has rocked us all to our cores because six and seven year olds should be looking forward to the Holidays not placed in caskets. It’s unbearable and what happens when no action is taken. So, when people on Friday said that it was “too soon” to make this about politics, I responded, “If not now, when?” When is the right time? The right time is always after and much too late. May I be frank and crass? I’m sick of this shit happening. I’m sick of attempts and dialogue being started in the wake of a tragedy only to have it languish. The truth of the matter is the time is now to put people, politicians especially, on the spot. To turn discussion into action. For this — the Tucsons, the Auroras and the Newtowns — to end.

 

Keep the conversation going with Heather Barmore at Poliogue: The Art of Political Dialogue, Twitter and Facebook.

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