This is Who We’ve Become

Published: February 16, 2018

By Jim Lichtman
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17 Dead after a shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!” one student shouted in a cell phone video.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel: “This is catastrophic!”

Action Congress has taken since the Sandy Hook School shooting five years ago: Zero.

I was already working on a commentary regarding gun laws when news broke that another shooting, at yet another school, had taken place.

One week ago, (Feb. 9), Gallup released the results of a new poll: “Americans Dissatisfied with U.S. Gun Laws

“For the sixth consecutive year,” Megan Brenan writes, “a majority of Americans say they are dissatisfied with U.S. gun laws and policies. Fifty-nine percent of U.S. adults are now dissatisfied with the nation’s gun laws and 39% are satisfied. Dissatisfaction has risen five percentage points from 2017 and is close to Gallup’s 18-year high of 62%, recorded in 2016.”

How are Washington lawmakers responding?

One bill, quietly making its way through Congress is H.R.38: The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 effectively makes it legal to carry a concealed weapon from state to state much like a driver’s license.

Steve Kroft discussed the bill in a segment for CBS’s 60 Minutes last Sunday (Feb. 11).

The Act “has already sailed through the House of Representatives and has the full support of President Trump. It has roughly 40 co-sponsors in the Senate where a showdown is shaping up between the gun lobby and law enforcement over states’ rights and the second amendment. …

Tim Schmidt: I think the aim of this bill is to simply allow responsibly armed Americans to be able to travel and continue to defend their families.

Kroft: And carry concealed firearms.

Schmidt: And carry concealed firearms.

Kroft: Anywhere?

Schmidt: Yes. Yes.

“Tim Schmidt is president and founder of the United States Concealed Carry Association. Along with the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, they have successfully sold the bill in conservative red states as a simple, common sense solution to a hodgepodge of confusing, contradictory state laws they say infringe upon Americans’ rights to bear arms.

“But there is fierce opposition to it in places like California,” Kroft adds, “where there are strict gun laws and concealed carry permits are difficult to obtain. It’s one of eight states that generally require thorough background checks, at least some firearms training and a proven need to carry a handgun. In another 30 states, it’s easier to get a concealed carry permit and in many of those, there’s no requirement to be proficient in the use of firearms. A dozen states have no requirements at all.

“Robyn Thomas, the executive director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, says forcing states to accept any and all gun permits would make the weakest laws in the country the new norm.

“ ‘Someone who lives in Nevada,” Thomas told Kroft, “who’s able to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in Nevada could now bring that loaded gun into Los Angeles, into San Francisco, and carry their loaded weapon, even though in San Francisco that’s not someone who would get a permit.’

“Kroft: So, this law would essentially usurp the gun laws in cities like New York and Chicago and Los Angeles.

“Thomas: Absolutely.”

NRA Director Wayne LaPierre has consistently reinforced the NRA mantra: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

Can someone please explain to me how law enforcement is able to tell the difference between a good guy and bad guy, when they roll up on an active shooting, if both are carrying and, likely, firing guns?

“The large constituency for this message,” Kroft continues, is “in the red states that stretch from the Carolinas through the mountains of the far west. … To people here, whether they’re single mothers worried about robbers and rapists while driving their kids across state lines to soccer matches, or ranchers worried about rattlesnakes, guns are a security blanket of self-reliance and protection that keep them safe.”

And I fully support such “protection” in those locations.

“But in most big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and New York,” Kroft points out, “guns are a cause of fear and concern, not comfort. And law enforcement has lined up against strangers from faraway places walking around their cities with loaded guns in violation of their own laws.

“Cyrus Vance: I think it would be a disaster for New York City. And I think for major cities around the country.

“James O’Neill: I think it’s insanity.

“Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance and New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill say their city has the most to lose. Every year, New York takes in nearly 50 million visitors from all over the country into a congested, sometimes chaotic city. Even if a tiny fraction were legally carrying concealed weapons, it would mean hundreds of thousands of additional guns for what is right now the safest big city in America.

“Vance: You bring that kind of volume of firepower even with well-intentioned people– it’s gonna be extremely dangerous. …

“Vance and O’Neill have established a formidable coalition of prosecutors and police chiefs from nearly every big city in America to lobby senators to keep the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act from becoming law.

“Kroft: Representative Hudson, there’s huge opposition to this bill, among police departments in major cities in the United States– Houston. Tucson. Metropolitan DC. Boston. New York City. Baltimore. Seattle. These are all cities where the chief of police has come out against this law. … how do you explain that?

“Rep. Richard Hudson: There are folks on both sides of the argument– and I think good folks on both sides, who are honestly trying to protect their citizens. I just disagree with the conclusions.

“Kroft: So, you’re saying New York or Los Angeles, or Chicago — big cities have no right to pass any laws that regulate who can carry a weapon.

“Hudson: These cities and these states can still continue to have whatever laws they want to protect their citizens.

“Kroft: Except they can’t have a law that prohibits someone from carrying a concealed weapon?

“Hudson: Right. Just like a driver’s license. You can’t say you can’t drive here.

“Kroft: It’s not just like a driver’s license. Because to get a driver’s license, you have to demonstrate a proficiency and establish that you’re not going to endanger the public and that you understand all the laws governing it. But that’s not the case in terms of possessing–

“Hudson: Right.

“Kroft: –getting a concealed carry permit.

“Hudson: But driving is a privilege, owning a firearm is a Constitutionally protected right. So, there is a difference.

“The central tenet of Concealed Carry Reciprocity is that the Second Amendment gives people the right to carry guns anywhere they want but that idea is more aspiration than factual.

“In fact,” Robyn Thomas says, “the Supreme Court has ruled on the Second Amendment in 2008. And what the Supreme Court said is that you have a right to have a handgun in your home for self-defense. And it absolutely does not include a right to carry a loaded, concealed weapon in public. And right up until the Supreme Court says it is your right, that is a fallacy that they’re pushing, in the hopes that it will become the truth. But it simply isn’t the truth as of right now.”

“ ‘The goal of the gun lobby,” Cyrus Vance adds, “is to have what they call Constitutional Carry, which means that you — anyone can have a gun, anywhere, anytime. Because the Constitution, and the Second Amendment, in their view, says that. And so the world that they imagine is one where everyone can have a gun. That’s not the world that I think I wanna live in. But that’s the world that I think they’re tryin’ to create.”

It’s also the world that allows a disturbed 18-year-old buy an AR-15 assault-style rifle – meant to kill people, not animals – to enter a high school with multiple magazines, and murder 17 students and adults and injure 14 others, and… no action by Congress to ameliorate any part of the issue.

This is not tragic; it’s obscene.

This is who we’ve become; a country where the Second Amendment rational is: what I want is what I need, and there is no consideration for how it affects you and others.


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