On Tuesday, a teenager with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition in his duffel bag walked into his high school in Troutdale, Ore., and shot and killed another student. He wounded a teacher before turning the gun on himself. Police found his body in a locker room.
The incident, days after an even more tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Nev., in which two angry white supremacists ambushed and killed two police officers in a CiCi’s Pizza restaurant, barely registered in the national consciousness.
So overwhelming has been the National Rifle Association’s cynical campaign to convince America’s politicians that nothing can or should be done to snuff out gun violence, the nation seems almost numb to school shootings.
In fact, there has been an average of one school shooting per week since the awful slaughter of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.
One school shooting per week
The gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety has published a database of 74 different school shootings since Newtown. Not all of them were of the madman-with-a-gun variety. Some were suicides or accidental shootings. But all highlight a reality of American life: In a country that has the highest gun-ownership rate in the world, the gun-related deaths of innocent people have become a part of our daily life.
Unfortunately, too many pandering politicians, mostly Republicans, but plenty of cowardly Democrats, too, have decided that the answer is even more guns.
Ever since Newtown, the Missouri legislature, for instance, has signed a blood oath with the NRA to wipe out any remnant of reasonable controls put on guns in the name of safety.
Luckily, this year’s attempt in the legislature to nullify all present, past and future federal gun laws failed to make it to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk. But two bad gun bills, Senate Bills 656 and 745 were passed.
The Oregon and Nevada shootings are a reminder of how bloodthirsty the legislature has become, trying to increase the likelihood of gun violence in Missouri to please a small band of extremist voters.
In Las Vegas, two white supremacists, one just 22 years old, walked into the pizza restaurant and ambushed two cops, killing them. Then they went across the street to a Walmart and killed another man who himself was armed. He died apparently trying to be that “good guy with a gun” the NRA insists will cut down on mass violence.
Make no mistake, if Mr. Nixon doesn’t veto the two guns bills on his desk, incidents such as this will be more likely in Missouri.
Senate Bill 656 would make it more likely that gun owners could walk into a restaurant or big box store openly displaying their weapons, despite local ordinances to the contrary. The law would supersede such ordinances, and allow anybody with a concealed-carry permit to openly carry their weapons unconcealed.
And get this, it would make it harder for police officers such as Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31 — the two were murdered in Las Vegas — to do something about it. That’s because Missouri Republicans, formerly the law-and-order party, have decided that law enforcement officials, from cops to federal agents, are the enemy in their battle to help gun companies increase profits.
Kowtowing to gun lobby at our peril
There is a section of Senate Bill 656 that makes it harder for police officers to disarm people in suspicious circumstances unless they are placing them under arrest. Police officers are killed in the line of duty all too often in such circumstances, responding to domestic violence disputes, traffic violations, and, now, it seems, being ambushed for sport.
Making it harder for them to protect themselves is among the most disgusting things a legislature can do.
The two laws would also reduce to 19 the age at which a Missourian could obtain a concealed-carry permit. The bills would allow schools to start arming teachers or administrators even though law enforcement officials almost universally advise against it.
Worse, parents would be barred from knowing if their kids’ teacher was packing heat. The laws would make it harder for concealed-carry permits to be revoked if they lapse. They would make it more difficult for law enforcement to obtain information about permit holders. They would actually reduce requirements for gun safety training.
The extremist bills aren’t about protecting the Second Amendment rights of responsible gun owners. They’re about kowtowing to that extreme segment of American gun owners who aren’t responsible, the people who get their kicks strolling through the toy department at Target carrying assault rifles. This is the guns-uber-alles crowd, the off-the-deep-enders who have numbed the national sensitivity toward the whine of bullets tearing apart the silence in communities, taking the lives of young and old alike, because politicians choose gun profits over life.
Mr. Nixon might be inclined, as he has on some gun bills in the past, to simply let these bills become law without his signature, because they aren’t as bad as they could be.
He should take a stand. Veto them.
Tell the Missouri legislature you will stand up for law enforcement. That you will stand up for the innocent. Tell the legislature, Mr. Nixon, that you will remember Newtown, and every other town across America that has been shattered by gunfire.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.