By Brigitte L. Nacos
The attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords has understandably shocked her colleagues in the House and Senate and heightened their fear that they, too, could become assassination targets.
But instead of showing a united front in tightening gun control laws to keep the most lethal weapons and ammunition out of the hands of people who do not hunt deer or pheasants but rather human beings, Democrats and Republicans alike ponder measures that would provide greater security exclusively for members of congress and some other government officials.
Representative Peter King (R-New York) proposes a law that would prohibit carrying a gun within 1,000 feet of members of Congress or other “high-profile” government officials. Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana) wants bullet proof Plexiglass between the congressional public gallery and the floor; his colleague Robert Brady (D-Pennsylvania) wants to make language or symbols suggestive as threatening violence against all federal officials a crime.
While anxiety on the part of Congresswoman Giffords’ colleagues is understandable, it is unacceptable that almost all members of Congress think merely of their own protection and not at all about common sense laws that would go a far way in increasing the safety of all Americans.
Today, most members of both parties defer to the National Rifle Association and this well-financed organization’s aggressive lobbying schemes. Democrats used to be more supportive of gun control measures than Republicans in the past but they have since surrendered to the NRA and its power to influence the outcome of elections in many parts of the country.
One of the exceptions here is Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-New York) who represents a district that is close to my own congressional district on Long Island. In the mid-1990s Mrs. McCarthy’s husband was killed and her son seriously injured when a gunman fired a semiautomatic weapon on passengers in a commuter train.
McCarthy ran for congress to push for the reduction of gun violence. But even when fellow-Democrats were in the majority, she did not win enough support. Her modest initiative did not even ask for gun control--only for a ban of super bullet clips that make for the firing of dozens of shots without reloading.
After the massacre in Tucson, Representative McCarthy will now make another push for her bill. It would be a modest step that would do more than simply provide better protection for members of congress. It would make all Americans a little bit safer.
Unfortunately, her efforts will once again be in vain. We may soon see laws designed to protecting “high-profile” government officials better—but not even the slightest tightening of the very features that make massacres like the one in Tucson easy to stage.