The New York Times documents how a recent debate over gun control played out in the area immediately surrounding Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children were recently shot and killed.
[In] the last couple of years, residents began noticing loud, repeated gunfire, and even explosions, coming from new places. Near a trailer park. By a boat launch. Next to well-appointed houses. At 2:20 p.m. on one Wednesday last spring, multiple shots were reported in a wooded area on Cold Spring Road near South Main Street, right across the road from an elementary school. [...]
The police department logged more than 50 gunfire complaints this year through July, double the number for all of 2011, records show. Some of the complaints raised another issue. Gun enthusiasts here, as elsewhere in the country, have taken to loading their targets with an explosive called Tannerite, which detonates when bullets strike it, sending shock waves afield. A mixture of ammonium nitrate and aluminum powder, Tannerite is legal in Connecticut, but safety concerns led Maryland this year to ban it.
Following the marked increase in gun-related complaints, Newtown police chief, Michael Kehoe and Joel T. Faxon, a police commission member, drafted a new city ordinance to replace an existing ordinance against firing weapons within 500 feet of occupied building that lacked adequate enforcement mechanisms.
Even though the idea of firing weapons that close to homes and businesses, with explosives attached to your targets, is certifiably insane, the police chief faced staunch local opposition and the new ordnance, which “included limited hours, and a requirement that any target shooting range, and the firearms that would be used there, be approved by the chief of police to make sure they were safe.” was abandoned.
The first meeting took place on Aug. 2, with about 60 people crowding into the room. Some spoke in favor of the new rules, the meeting minutes show. But many voiced their opposition, citing the waiting lists at established gun ranges. Among the speakers was a representative of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who was described as saying he believed there was a greater danger of swimming accidents. “No privileges should be taken away from another generation,” he said. [...]
A second committee gathering in September drew such a large crowd that the meeting was moved into a high school cafeteria, where the opposition grew fierce. [...]
The proposed ordinance was shelved, and Ms. Jacob said the committee was in the midst of researching a more limited rule, perhaps one restricted to making the existing ban on firing weapons within 500 feet of an occupied building more enforceable.
Right now all of the media’s focus is on President Obama and members of congress who have pledged to do something about gun violence, but it can’t stop there.
This is just as much of a state and local issue as it is federal, because in many cases state laws are far more lax and inadequate than the federal government can make up for on its own without ultimately facing the Supreme Court. And if we want to see real change over a long period of time, gun control must be pursued at every level of government all the way down to the city level.
Opponents of stricter gun control must be challenged in the same relentless manner as opponents of same-sex marriage and access to reproductive healthcare. They must be challenged at the school board, the city council, state legislatures, the governor’s office, and in congress.
If you intended to sit around and wait for President Obama to reverse decades of pervasive gun culture with a grand speech or even a single legislative victory, you’re not going to find the peace you’re looking for.
Achieving comprehensive, common sense gun control wouldn’t be as difficult as it is if our culture wasn’t so married to The Gun and all of the various fantasies associated with it. From the fantastical idea that rifles purchased at Wal-Mart may be used to rebel against the government (we’ll refer to this as the “Red Dawn theory”), to the idea that you may stop another massacre from occurring by packing heat yourself.
We have to change ourselves just as much as we have to change our laws.