Saturday, December 14, 2013
On Dec. 14 it will have been a year since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Twenty children and seven adults were killed by a young man with a history of significant mental illness and an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.
The incident was the second deadliest mass shooting by a single person in American history, after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, and prompted renewed debate about gun control in the United States. You could reasonably expect to see a prompt raft of state-level legislation aimed at gun safety and restrictions. It is a testament to the moneyed drive of the NRA, and its mostly Republican minions, that the truth is wildly different.
Since Newtown, approximately 1,500 gun-related bills have been introduced in the various states’ legislatures. The topics of these various legislative efforts include gun permits, public carry, guns in schools, mental health, background checks, assault weapons, nullify federal law, gun access, and lost/stolen firearms. Of the 1,500 bills introduced, 178 passed at least one chamber of a state legislature. 109 have become law.
Thirty-nine of them tighten gun restrictions; 70 loosen gun restrictions. All of this in a country where numerous surveys in the past year have shown the vast majority of the public favors at least some gun restrictions to curb the daily gun violence in our communities.
What happened in Oregon? Five bills were introduced, four in the Senate (background checks, concealed carry in schools and state Capitol building, and concealed carry training) and one in the House (assault weapons). None of them passed even one legislative chamber, although the background checks bill came close.
What happened in Washington? The state actually passed two relevant laws: one creating a statewide database of mental health information and requiring submission of mental health commitment records to the state, and one creating a registry of gun offenders. Two bills passed the first Chamber before getting killed: one prohibiting subjects of domestic-violence protection orders from obtaining firearms or concealed weapons permits, and one to allow an NRA “safety program” in schools and child care centers.
So here’s a question that should be easy. Do we give a damn? And the other, even more important, are we going to hold our elected representatives accountable?
Here it is, election season. There will be fundraisers and public forums. Will we speak up, ask the questions, make sure the candidates answer instead of dancing around them? Will we campaign and vote based on the answers? If we don’t, we’re complicit.
Bonnie New lives in Hood River.