By Carlyn Obringer
From Carlyn’s Column
Although Congress has not enacted a single major gun law in 13 years, the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy should serve as a wake-up call for Democratic legislators nationwide to move gun control back to the top of the political agenda. The ceremony recently held in remembrance of the massacre of 32 of America’s young people should rouse lawmakers to push aside partisan politics and ensure the safety of all U.S. citizens by making it extremely difficult to purchase guns, such as assault weapons and semi-automatic pistols, used exclusively to kill people.
Once the champion of gun control, the Democratic Party has moved steadily in the opposite direction over the past eight years, for fear of losing the votes of gun owners. Al Gore, for example, barely mentioned gun control during the 2000 presidential campaign while Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) went hunting during the 2004 race for the White House. Unmentioned during the 2006 stumping season, the issue of tighter gun laws has yet to surface among the 2008 Democratic candidates for president.
How shameful that the last significant gun control measures to be passed by Congress were the Brady Bill in 1993 and the now-expired assault weapons ban in 1994. Democrats should not be afraid to lose support for doing what the governments of Germany, Japan and most of the world’s other industrialized nations have done: severely restricting access to guns. After all, the stricter the gun laws, the less gun violence that a country generally incurs. In fact, while gun violence has decreased in those nations that have enacted strict gun laws after a mass shooting, the number of gun-related fatalities in the U.S. continues to increase as a result of the ready availability of every type of firearm.
With proper licensing, hunters in the U.S. should be able to buy rifles and shotguns. There is no reason, however, that any private citizen in a democracy should own a handgun. In the wake of the anniversary of the tragedy in Blacksburg, Virginia, Democrats must reclaim ownership of the gun control issue and enact rational measures that safeguard the well-being of all Americans. The question is, will Democrats take a stand now, or will more innocent people have to die before public anger over gun violence turns the tide?