Carolyn in the News
Long Island Herald: Let’s arm ourselves with stronger gun laws
January 20, 2011
Almost two weeks ago, 22-year-old Jared L. Loughner, allegedly armed with a Glock 9mm with a 30-round magazine (and another bullet in the chamber) opened fire at a public meet-and-greet outside a Safeway store in Tucson, killing six and wounding 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
In the aftermath of this carnage, some in Congress have made constructive proposals. We applaud their efforts.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Reports of Loughner’s odd behavior in the months leading up to the shooting make it clear that he never should have been able to a purchase a weapon, and certainly not one with a high-capacity ammunition clip. He cleared a federal background check even though he had been banned from his community college campus for being a threat to other students and faculty. He had also been rejected by the Army for failing a drug test. But these things didn’t show up on the background check.
Three years ago, U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from Mineola, authored a bill that became law, requiring the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to prohibit gun purchases by convicted criminals and those with a history of mental illness. This legislation stemmed from the March 2002 murder of the Rev. Larry Penzes of Our Lady of Peace Church in Lynbrook, and was also supported by State Sen. Dean Skelos, a Republican from Rockville Centre, and then-Assemblyman Bob Barra, a Republican from Lynbrook.
Penzes, 50, and congregant Eileen Tosner, 73, were shot and killed in the church by Peter Troy, 34, who was eventually sentenced to two life terms for the murders and an additional 25 years for the attempted murder of a police officer involved in his capture. Troy had purchased a .22 caliber rifle from a Mineola gun shop only days before the shootings, even though he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had spent time in a mental institution.
Arizona has eased its gun law restrictions in recent years. Loughner customized his weapon with an extended ammunition clip that was illegal in the state six years ago. It contained 18 more bullets than a standard magazine.
Just two days after Tucson incident, Mc-Carthy introduced legislation in the House that would restrict large-capacity magazines. A stand-alone bill, the Large Capacity Ammu-nition Feeding Device Act, would prohibit the transfer, importation or possession of these magazines manufactured after the bill was enacted. It would also require large-capacity clips manufactured after the date of enactment to indicate that with a serial number.
We applaud McCarthy’s attempts, as well as those of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, to update the nation’s gun laws. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said he would urge President Obama and the Pentagon to notify the FBI when someone is rejected by the military for excessive drug use, as happened in Loughner’s case.
Will these bipartisan attempts to plug loopholes in our current laws stop the depraved actions of individuals who are hell-bent on creating carnage? Maybe not, but it is our elected officials’ job to try to keep us safe.
No one is challenging the Constitution’s guarantee of citizens’ right to own guns. But we do hope Congress can work together to strike a balance between our right to own them and our right to be safe from the people who would use them malevolently. We may never stop violence or murder or someone obeying a voice in his head instructing him to go out and kill as many people as possible. But we can try to make it harder for him to do so.
What is a high-capacity feeding device?
A magazine, belt, drum, feed strip or similar device that has a capacity of more than 10 rounds of ammunition, or can be readily restored or converted to accept multiple rounds.
What would the new law prohibit?
It would outlaw the transfer, possession or import of large-capacity ammunition-feeding devices manufactured after the date of the bill’s enactment. Active and retired law enforcement personnel and the devices’ use for protecting nuclear materials and for authorized testing or experimentation would be exempt.
What would the penalties be for violating the law?
Violators would be subject to fines and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years.
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