June 21, 2018
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Was Newtown massacre finally enough? Maybe not

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

In order to find the motivation to lose weight, some find it necessary to strip naked, stand before the mirror and reveal the ugly.

Until you do, it’s pretty easy to wear baggier clothes, avoid being photographed and continue to eat cheeseburgers and fries for lunch.

Many of us do that day in and day out, week after week and year after year.

Oh, we know what the problem is, of course, but the solution seems so terribly daunting, painful even, and absolutely no fun at all.

Most of us have some form of ugliness in our lives.

As a country we have bunches of it — poverty, out-of-control drug abuse, greed — the list is long. And we, as a country are absolutely masterful at ignoring it.

So our latest ugliness came in the form of 20 brutally slain little children and six of their caretakers at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Reporters and pundits and politicians and regular folk from coast to coast say that finally this — this bloodbath of babies, and really that’s what they were — in picturesque Connecticut, by a man carrying two handguns, several hundred rounds of ammunition and a .223-caliber Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, is enough.

It’s enough of the violence, enough of the mind-numbing bickering, enough of the absolute arrogance of the National Rifle Association and its power over our politicians, enough of the politicians scurrying cowardly away from the fight, and enough of ourselves being too busy and uninterested to hold them accountable.

I’m wondering, though, is it really?

Because it wasn’t enough when 12 students and a teacher were gunned down at Columbine High School in 1999. It wasn’t enough when 32 students and teachers were gunned down at Virginia Polytechnic in 2007. It wasn’t enough when six people were killed and 13 wounded during an event with U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011, and it wasn’t enough when 12 people were gunned down inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last July.

All those incidents did was rally the NRA and its members.

“From my cold dead hands,” proclaimed Charlton Heston, former president of the NRA, while thrusting a rifle to the sky to thunderous applause. “From my cold dead hands.”

When our politicians are too afraid of an organization to even hold the most limited discussions about how to reduce the number of guns being trafficked on the streets of our cities, or how to effectively but fairly limit the availability of guns to those with severe mental illness or criminal records, then truly we should be ashamed.

Indulge me for a moment while I revisit a small example of how the NRA will impose its influence on even the most benign legislation if the word “gun” appears in a bill.

In 2006, LD 1938 was on its way to easy passage in the State House. It had bipartisan committee support and had received accolades from the Maine commissioner of public safety, the Maine Chiefs of Police Association and the Maine attorney general.

There was no cost to the taxpayer.

It was a domestic violence bill and its only purpose was to better protect victims of domestic violence. Federal law prohibits a person subject to a protection from abuse order from possessing or purchasing firearms. If that person attempts to buy a gun and is denied through a background check, the information is forwarded to the FBI and then to the Department of Public Safety.

There the information sits.

LD 1938 proposed a system whereby police, upon receiving the information of denial, would do their best to notify the victim that the abuser had attempted to purchase a firearm. That was it.

Rep. Josh Tardy of Newport, upon urging by the NRA, tacked on amendments that would require police officers to receive special training on how to handle and store firearms turned over to them by those subject to a protection order and that police departments be held financially liable should a gun be damaged while in police custody.

Neither amendment was germane to the bill. The bill had nothing to do with police confiscating or storing guns, but the attachment of those NRA-written amendments squashed it.

When asked later why he attached the amendments, Tardy had no clear answer.

Tardy’s a smart guy, a successful attorney and was an effective legislator. He should have known that LD 1938 would have saved lives without any infringement on anyone’s rights.

But even then, he did not say no to the NRA.

As long as the NRA continues to wield its power and influence over our politicians and convince its members that laws making it harder for criminals and the severely mentally ill to purchase and possess firearms will surely lead to the confiscation of all guns everywhere, then no, I don’t believe that what happened in Newtown, Conn., will be enough.

The sight of the cold dead hands of those children and the adults who tried to protect them will always be secondary to the NRA’s mission of silencing any discussion of sensible gun control.

And that’s the ugly reflected in our mirror.

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