When we discussed the Pittsburgh shooter, Richard Poplawski, who killed three policemen using his personal arsenal including at least one AK-47, we didn't know much of the background that has come out now.
He wasn't your run-of-the-mill malcontent. A white supremacist, he frequented the chat rooms of racist Web sites, where he posted screeds about a "Zionist occupation" bringing the country to economic ruin. But Keith Savage, manager of the Braverman Arms Co., where Poplawski got many of his guns (but not the AK-47, Savage claims), says nothing seemed amiss when he filled out Form 4473—the standard questionnaire for federally required background checks. The gun-shop staff had no way of knowing, for instance, about Poplawski's January 2005 discharge from the Marines for what Lt. Josh Diddams, a U.S. Marine Corps spokesman, tells NEWSWEEK was a "psychological disorder" (he had assaulted his drill sergeant during basic training, says Poplawski's mother). They probably also didn't know that Poplawski's former girlfriend had gotten a restraining order against him, later in 2005, after he grabbed her by the hair and threatened to kill her.
Any ex-marines reading this might agree with me that not only is assaulting the drill instructor during boot camp extremely rare, it's one of the greatest indicators of mental illness I've ever heard of. But, the real question is what does this say about the supposed background checks that are being done? If a psychological discharge from the service and the assault charges that led to it didn't raise the red flag, shouldn't the civilian assault on the girlfriend have done so? Where exactly is the background check system failing?
The thrust of the article is the White House's silence on the problem. It seems reinstating the assault weapons ban has taken a back burner to some of the other pressing problems facing the new President, first among them, I suppose, is the economy. Meanwhile, here's something you don't read every day.
In recent years the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also lifted virtually all restrictions on imports of foreign-made assault weapons, permitting a flood of cheap Romanian, Bulgarian and other Eastern European AK-47s to enter the country, according to gun-control groups. "There's been an absolute deluge of these weapons," says Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center.
Is this what the gun enthusiasts refer to as freedom? Is this what they really want for America, a dramatic increase in the availability of guns, I'm only guessing that if the AKs are pouring in, pistols of every description are too. Is this freedom?
Why would the administration make an about-face on this issue? The political pressure must have been enormous.
In February, Holder called for restoring the federal ban on assault guns to help curb the flow of weapons to the Mexican cartels. As soon as he made the call, however, the NRA launched a fierce lobbying campaign—and 65 House Democrats signed a letter vowing to resist any gun-control measures. In the Senate, Montana Democrats Max Baucus and Jon Tester sent their own warning. "Senators to Attorney General Holder: Stay Away From Our Guns," read the press release.
Within days, White House aides instructed Justice officials to stop talking about the assault-weapons issue, according to congressional and administration officials who asked not to be identified because of political sensitivities.
I would imagine the arms manufacturers and importers have their own lobbyists but are happy to let the NRA take the spotlight. In this way a very vocal and powerful minority influences government to the detriment of all.
To be fair, I wouldn't want to claim that your average NRA member wants more gun violence or that he is heedless of the problems. But, I do suggest he is like a tantrum-prone 5-year-old boy who will do or say anything so mommy and daddy don't take his toys away. That kind of self-centered thinking is unconscionable in adult people who are supposed to be reasonable. And it is reason itself that cries out saying something is very wrong in The United States and more guns will just make it worse.
What's your opinion? Do you think it's a bad sign that Obama is abandoning one of his promises for political reasons? Do you think the elected officials, like those 65 Democrats who signed the letter to the President opposing gun control, are mainly old men who are diminishing in numbers? I read once that the demographics on hunters indicate that. Is there hope that over the next 10 or 20 years the percentages will shift? What do you think?
How does education figure into this? It does seem like the States which suffer most from inadequate schools are the same ones that vote Republican and support gun rights. What's the connection there? It seems to me that intelligence and reasonableness are part and parcel of the anti-gun mentality while the opposite traits too often seem to describe the pro-gun characters. There are exceptions on both sides, of course.
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.