Kamenetz: Why does anyone need access to assault weapons?

What Baltimore-area officials are saying on gun safety

guns collected baltimore

Firearms collected in Baltimore Saturday as part of a gun giveback program.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

Baltimore law enforcement officials have vowed to target “bad guys with guns,” but what about the guns themselves?

Following the slaughter of 28 women and small children at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, public officials from the President of the United States on down to local city councilmen are being pressed to get beyond generalities and articulate their stance on specific measures to limit access to guns.

“If this moment passes into memory without action from Washington, it will be a stain upon our nation of protecting the innocent, including our children,” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a press conference today, joined by 34 people who have been affected by gun violence.

Media voices are growing louder on the issue as well, with less a tone of jaded resignation about American gun politics and more of a howl of indignation that anyone ever bowed to them.

“What do we make of the contrast between heroic teachers who stand up to a gunman and craven, feckless politicians who won’t stand up to the N.R.A.?” the New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof wrote in “Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

In the interest of following the comments and positions of local officials as they perhaps “evolve” in the coming days, here’s a link to a statement made today by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.

He talked about how his thinking has changed starting with the shooting of one student by another at Perry Hall High School on the first day of school in September and the subsequent incident in which a student brought a gun to Stemmers Run in the second week of school.

“I tended to blame the family members who allowed disturbed children to have access to weapons. And I tend to partially blame the Newtown tragedy on the killer’s mother for allowing him access to weapons,” Kamenetz wrote.

“But then I realized, why does any person need access to assault weapons and high capacity magazines?” he continued. “These are weapons of war, not for personal use.” He called on state and federal officials to:

• Stop allowing exceptions to national background checks.
• Stop the sale of military-grade assault weapons that can out-gun our police officers.
• Stop the sale of high capacity magazines of more than ten rounds.

We’ll be interested to see how specific other state, city and county officials get as they address the topic in the coming days.

Speaking today at dedication ceremonies for the the AmeriCorps Atlantic Region Campus, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she has pushed for stronger gun control measures but run into lack of support in Annapolis.

“I’ve tried,” she said. “I’ve advocated for stronger gun laws in Annapolis for years — and had extreme difficulty getting some members of the legislature to understand why it was so important to have strong gun laws.”

Here’s the text of a 2010 speech where she discussed her proposed tougher penalties for illegal gun possession.

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  • ushanellore

    They’re  fragile the little children–USA Sandy Hook–2012

    For the right to bear arms they’ll die,
    they hold aloft their weapons,
    they cheer when they fire in ranges,
    they thrill when they hit bull’s eye,
    the noise– it reddens the sky.

    The animals– they scurry and hide–
    the children they huddle and cry–
    the children in pieces they lie–
    frangible glass on the ground.

    The mad men are out and about–
    enraged they are marginalized–
    no devils these men who are mad–
    no demons descended from afar–

    All of them shriveled and shy,
    bullied by the brittleness of life–
    they cower in their caves and plot–
    to avenge the bitterness wrought–
    in their narrow tunnels –they run
    their anxieties bubble and froth–
    in their brains the fever is hot–

    When they are overwrought–
    watch them reach for rifles-
    unlocked and ready to be cocked–
    the world recoils in shock–
    when triggers are held down as long–
    as it takes to sever– the bonds–
    of a mass of people–their souls
    on a river– maroon with the blood
    taken from their wounds–

    In numbers too many to count–
    meandering in search of solace–
    snuffed out by absolute strangers
    in movie theaters, museums and malls–
    in schools–the safest place– of all
    the places–in schools–
    how egregious that a shooter sought–
    tiny children to blow apart–

    They’re fragile–
    please handle them with care–
    cuddle them close in your arms–
    when nightmares recur in their sleep–
    and they are fleeing from monstrous storms-
    handle the children with care–
    such easy targets for harm–
    from men looking to unleash–
    the fury pent up in their hearts–

    A fury that will blow them apart
    unless it’s expelled–with shots–
    from the barrel ends of guns–
    the bullets barrel and whistle past–
    fast as missiles in space–
    the bullets emanate–
    through the barrel ends of guns–
    men have learned to communicate–

    There are wars afoot in the land–
    in the imagination of men–
    terror lays its cunning traps–
    fear enervates and saps–
    the energy– is drained from the land–
    when weapons are a source of comfort–
    when weapons are a source of pride–
    when weapons are as cherished as life–
    often even more than life–
    energy is drained from the land–

    It’s a child gone wild with a gun–
    it’s a woman asserting her power–
    it’s a man showing off his glock–
    it’s another ordering up a mountain
    of ammunition on line–

    It’s a lucrative business–death–
    its merchants are everywhere–
    purveyors of poisons galore–
    prosper on the hate of the land–

    We’re not afraid of the wolves–
    they have receded and dwindled
    in numbers–the lions too are no threats–
    the panthers, the tigers,
    the cheetahs, the elephants, the hippos–
    and the snakes that can kill us with their fangs–
    we don’t fear them as much as we fear–
    one of our own kind–

    Other humans are whom we fear–
    mirror images of our own selves,
    they’re the ones who can render us inert–
    faster than the sharks in the sea–
    surer than the mighty grizzly–

    So we arm ourselves to the teeth–
    we’ll kill before we are killed–
    we’ll kill one to save many–
    we’ll get the bad guys
    since we’re good–
    we’ll stand our ground and we’ll shoot–
    to demolish men who wear hoods–

    “If the lawful are not armed then the lawless
    will overrun the land–
    if the lawful are not strong–
    they’ll be crushed by a dictator’s hand–
    give every teacher a gun–
    recommend students should keep them in dorms–
    conceal, carry and swagger–
    if you no more feel like a man–
    a gun my friend is as potent–
    as Viagra for the morale–
    if you take away guns,
    you think men won’t kill anymore?
    they will kill with knives and with hands–
    with ropes and with automobiles–
    they will carry on–
    their killing sprees all over the land!”

    Spurious arguments abound!
    The air reverberates with their sound–

    Without firing a single shot
    and Martin Luther King–
    made their points–
    fought their battles-
    and won their wars–
    but  their non violence
    answered with violence–
    by guns their lives were cut short. 

    I can hear them declare–
    (their bare arms rippling with muscles)
    for their right to bear arms–
    those who’ll die–
    that Ghandhi and King were fools,
    they should have concealed
    and carried the tools
    indispensable to staying alive. 

    Loud and clear– their exhortation
    fills the crisp air,
    that we must hold on to our freedom–
    because our freedom is dear!

    What freedom do they speak of?
    The freedom to purchase rifles
    that can fire countless rounds–
    of bullets and pump them into tissues–
    to fragment folks to shards?

    O please!  Spare me!

    They’re fragile– the little children–
    handle them with care–

    Usha Nellore

  • discer

    All these spineless poliiticians are  now finding their backbones? Where was all this outrage for the last couple of decades. I guess we now know what it takes to get people at least  talking about reasonable gun control. However, while hopeful I am not confident that sufficent change in gun legislation will come out of the this tragic incident. Proposed legislation will be negotiated and watered down with loopholes in ordet to get something done.  

    Additionally, access to guns is only part of the issue. How to fight and attempt to reverse to desensitization to violence that has occured over the last 50+ years. Guns have always been available. A single person using  them to exact “revenge” on innocent victims is relatively recent. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have seen the last of these horrible acts. Right now some socially isolated individual, flying under the radar, is seeing all the attention this event is getting and is planning for his 15 minutes. 

    All this could have possibly been avoided had we had the political will years ago.

  • Barnadine_the_Pirate

    Tax ammunition — $20/round, with a full rebate for ammo purchased and fired on the same day at a licensed range. Include a comparable tax on propellant and cartridges. Limit gun ownership to two per adult. No more gunshow loopholes on background checks or waiting periods. The Supreme Court’s reactionary social engineers have decreed that “a well regulated militia” means “shooting burglars,” but those decisions apply only to keeping a firearm in the home; they don’t apply to taking four guns and 6,000 rounds of ammo to a movie theater, shopping mall, or school. Prohibit clips that hold more than 10 rounds.

    There is no perfect solution; we are too awash in guns as it is.  But just because a measure won’t eliminate 100% of such massacres doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and simply consent to endless, limitless butchery.

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