Watching politicians trip over themselves to scream, “Now is not the time to talk about (gun control, climate change)!” after we as a nation have come together to grieve the latest mass shooting or apocalyptic storm, might be funny if it weren’t so sickening.
When we want to talk about our country’s gun problem after a mass shooting, the intention is not to pour salt in an open wound but to help minimize or even prevent the next terrifying act of rage.
So, yes, even though we’re all still raw from the senseless tragedy in Las Vegas, let’s talk about guns. Let’s talk, specifically, about HR 38: Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, a bill co-sponsored by our own Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler.
Did you know that the National Rifle Association has given $33,900 to four Washington Congress members currently in office and Republican Herrera Beutler got almost one-third of those “donations”? And that, as it happens, the bill Herrera Beutler co-sponsored back in January of this year, HR 38, is an NRA dream come true?
Touted by gun-rights folks as a way to even the playing field by allowing concealed-weapons permit holders to travel freely state to state, the bill would make it legal for someone from a less restrictive state — where they may not be required to have a permit — to legally carry a concealed weapon into a more restrictive state like Massachusetts, where people have fought to restrict who can obtain a concealed-carry permit: including repeat domestic violence offenders.
Research shows that many mass shooters also have a history of violence toward women or romantic partners, so imposing restrictions on domestic violence offenders makes an awful lot of sense. Unfortunately, it also decreases the pool of potential gun buyers, ticking off gun manufacturers and their lobbyists.
Essentially, HR 38, which is expected to be voted on this month or next, would neuter common-sense state gun-control laws that are simply trying to prevent certain high-risk people from legally concealing their weapons of mass destruction.
In NRA literature about these types of concealed-carry reciprocity bills, they talk about fairness and about “law-abiding gun owners.” Indeed, they make it sound as if everyone who applies for — and gets — a concealed-carry permit has been vetted and given a “good citizen” stamp of approval. Reality, however, shows that many mass shooters also held concealed-carry permits.
Here are just a few examples, courtesy of statistics compiled by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit advocate of more stringent gun control laws to curb gun violence in the United States:
Richard Poplawski: This Pennsylvania white supremacist was able to obtain a concealed-carry permit despite having a protection-from-abuse order filed against him. On April 4, 2009, Poplawski used an AK-47 assault rifle, a shotgun and a pistol to murder three law enforcement officers in Pittsburgh.
Aaron Alexis: The shooter who killed 12 people at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. on Sept. 16, 2013, also had a concealed-carry permit. In fact, he had once been a concealed-carry permit holder in Washington State before moving to Texas and obtaining his second government-approved permit.
Jiverly Wong: Having obtained his concealed-carry permit in a part of New York State that didn’t require renewals, Wong was able to legally carry four guns into the American Civic Association in Binghamton, New York, on April 3, 2009, where he fired 98 shots and killed 13 people.
Ian Stawicki: This case hits closer to home. Stawicki was the man who opened fire inside a Seattle coffee shop on May 30, 2012, killing four cafe customers, and then murdered a mother of two and stole her SUV before fatally shooting himself. Stawicki’s father told Seattle media that the family had tried to convince authorities to revoke Stawicki’s conceal-carry permit, and were concerned about his mental state.
We need to ask why our politicians are so willing to pass (and co-sponsor) laws like HR 38 in light of statistics like these. Is it because they’ve pledged allegiance to an $8 billion-a-year industry that produces 8 million firearms annually and stands to lose out big time if gun sales drop in the U.S.?
It’s a good question to ask. And now is exactly the right time to ask it.