Thursday, August 9, 2012

Time for Chris Christie to Shut Up & Listen

Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, the soon-to-be keynote speaker at the Republican convention in Tampa, recently made one of his typically insensitive and downright absurd statements; this time referring to Rep. Carolyn McCarthy and a handful of others who have been brave enough to propose that online sales of ammunition be curtailed following the revelation that the Aurora Colorado gunman had purchased 6000 bullets on the internet for use in his Batman movie premiere massacre. Specifically, Rep. McCarthy’s bill would ban online and mail-order sales of ammunition by mandating that buyers present photo identification. The bill would also require ammunition dealers to alert appropriate authorities when someone purchases more than 1000 rounds.

Governor Christie apparently felt this was not “the appropriate time to be grandstanding about gun laws”. Ironically, this master of pomp has no similar thoughts regarding a fundraising letter mailed out by the NRA just three days after the shooting!

Governor Christie seems oblivious to the fact that he’s making reference to a woman whose husband Dennis was killed, and whose son Kevin was critically injured some twenty years ago when a man opened fire and randomly took 6 lives and wounded 19 others on a Long Island Railroad commuter train. Rep. McCarthy is all too familiar with gun violence.

In light of the Colorado tragedy, and the equally tragic shootings at the Sikh temple outside Milwaukee on August 5th, perhaps it’s time to re-visit Rep. McCarthy’s proposals. Contrary to Governor Christie’s twisted perception, this appears to be the ideal time. In fact, it’s long overdue. The waiting period for a new and sober discussion about gun control, and the NRA’s undue influence and outrageous ownership of the majority of our political representatives has expired.

I admit that Rep. McCarthy is one of my heroes. I admire her consistent and reasonable stance on gun control issues, and her proposals certainly don’t present a threat to anyone’s legitimate second amendment rights—contrary to the NRA’s carefully calculated hysterical “they’re coming for your guns” message.

Following the 1997 Empire State Building shooting, she introduced legislation to ban the sale of guns to tourists visiting the U.S. Also in 1997, Rep. McCarthy opposed a Treasury bill provision that would have allowed importation of weapons that were banned for sale in the U.S. Following the Columbine High School massacre, she proposed legislation that would make it more difficult for young adults to purchase guns, and would regulate gun shows. Once the Federal Weapons Assault Ban expired in 2004, Rep. McCarthy introduced the Assault Weapons Ban and Law Enforcement Act of 2007 that would ban 65 models of firearms, specifically any semiautomatic rifle, shotgun or handgun that was “originally designed for military or law enforcement use, or a firearm based on the design of such a firearm, that is not particularly suitable for sporting purposes, as determined by the Attorney General”. When it was revealed that the 2007 Virginia Tech murderer had been able to legally purchase a weapon despite documented mental health issues (a fact that slipped through the cracks due to inconsistent sharing of records between federal and state authorities), she introduced HR 2640, the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007, to remedy the situation.

Rep. McCarthy’s proposals have been consistently thoughtful and constitutionally non-intrusive. It’s simply time for demagogues like Chris Christie to shut up and listen.

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