Is gun control a security issue or a political cop out?

Despite outrage following mass shootings, issue remains a political hot potato

Since 1949, there have been 14 total mass-victim, active shooter incidents recorded in the United States, beginning with a neighborhood domestic murder rampage in Camden, New Jersey that left 13 dead and ending just last month in Newtown, Connecticut at the Sandy Hook Elementary School that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults. In total, these 14 mass killings have resulted in 229 deaths, 187 wounded and, in most cases, the death of the shooter themselves.

This roster of infamous destruction includes venues we will never forget like The Bell Tower at the University of Texas in Austin in 1966 that left 19 dead; a McDonalds’ restaurant in San Ysidro, California in 1984 where 22 were killed and the Luby’s restaurant in Killeen, Texas that saw 24 murdered in 1991. There was Columbine High School in 1999 (15 dead), Virginia Tech (33 dead) in 2007, Fort Hood where Army Major Nidal Hasan committed an act of cold, calculated terrorism by gunning down 13 fellow servicemen in 2009, and then the wounding of United States representative Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona in 2011 that also took six lives.

This past year, Americans were sickened when we witnessed a deranged killer walk into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and shoot 12 patrons to death and wound another 58, then just before Christmas we suffered the tragedy in Newtown.

Of course the outrage was palpable following the Newtown killings, as they were for each of the other massacres. The public demanded that lawmakers take action for strict gun control legislation. President Obama postured, calling for a "re-examination" of U.S. gun laws. To show all Americans it was of the upmost importance, he promptly put Vice President Joe Biden on the job to lead another reform committee to study U.S. gun policy - including limits on high-capacity magazines, background checks at gun shows and limits on military-style weapons.

And so it goes. Tragedy strikes, then public outrage, which is followed by a parade of blowhard politicians promising reports, reviews and reform that amounts to nothing more than insincere lip service. The truth is we’ve heard this hewn cry for action in response to gun violence before. Yet following each of the 14 major mass shootings in the past 64 years, not much in the way of federal or state legislation has resulted. And those laws that did emerge from a handful of these incidents were summarily overturned by state, federal and Supreme Court challenges that upheld Second Amendment tenants. 

The fact is the topic of gun control has long been a political issue that intimidates both Democrats and Republicans.  Bill Clinton wrote in his 2004 memoirs that his party lost control of the Congress to Republicans in the 1994 midterm elections on the heels of them passing an assault-weapons ban that same year. Other Democrats also point to Al Gore’s stance on stricter gun laws during his 2000 presidential campaign as the reason he lost to George W. Bush.

Whether those claims are valid are certainly disputed by many political experts. But the perception is strong enough to influence any strides towards meaningful gun control legislation. It seems that only sensational mass shooting events stir the emotion of Congress to consider sensible and realistic legislation. Yet once the newspaper headlines fade, so does the zeal of lawmakers.

Brian D. Baker, CPP, is a senior security management consultant and licensed private detective in Pennsylvania, with more than 20 years experience in security management, investigation, and consulting. He is also an experienced academician, having taught criminology, security management, and forensic investigation as a full-time and adjunct professor at several schools in Central Pennsylvania, including Penn State University.

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