Navy Yard shooting should send a message to Colorado legislators
Monday morning, the Washington Navy Yard became the latest target of a disgruntled employee when Aaron Alexis went postal in a building in the naval complex. Armed with two handguns and a shotgun and a handgun, Alexis entered the building with a single motive: killing as many innocent people as he could in the least possible time.
Two hours later, 12 employees and military personnel were dead, a number of others were wounded, and the killer himself had been shot down by police.
It is a story Americans have seen and heard too often in recent years: Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Sandy Hook Elementary, Fort Hood, Aurora and now the Washington Navy Yard. Gun control advocate Sen. Dianne Feinstein calls this list “the litany of massacres.”
“When will enough be enough?” Feinstein asked. “Congress must stop shirking its responsibility and resume a thoughtful debate on gun violence in this country. We must do more to stop this endless loss of life.”
Feinstein’s words should resonate in Colorado, site of two of the most notorious mass killings in American history, Columbine and Aurora.
Coming only a week after the successful campaign in Colorado to recall state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron, the Navy Yard massacre still should inspire Colorado legislators to reconsider common-sense legislation to keep guns out of the hands of individuals bent on murder.
If the Washington Naval Yard massacre had occurred a week ago — the Monday before the recall election for Morse and Giron — these two lawmakers might be returning to Denver for the new legislative session.
In Colorado, as in most of the states, a majority of voters support limited restrictions on gun ownership, as well as the Second Amendment. Charges that reform threatens the Second Amendment are NRA hyperbole meant to excite the gun-toting base into a passionate defense against the chimera of government confiscation of privately owned guns.
The modest gun safety laws Morse and Giron supported are no threat to legitimate gun owners. But they could help prevent guns falling into the hands of such individuals as Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, James Holmes or Aaron Alexis with a compulsory background check.
Alexis’ history of violent behavior and misuse of guns, combined with his Navy reserve record of multiple disciplinary infractions, should have been red flags to an investigator who ran a background check on a gun purchase.
Encouraged by their victory over Morse and Giron, the national gun rights organizations are now circulating intimidating questionnaires testing other legislators on their support for repealing the new Colorado gun regulations.
The Daily Caller quotes from the questionnaire: “As you are likely aware, we recently succeeded in the first successful recall of not one, but two, state officials in Colorado history. As we consider our next endeavors, we wish to know where every legislator stands on a repeal of Colorado’s unlawful new gun restrictions.”
The GOP apparently plans to continue its vendetta against proponents of mandatory background checks. With their majority reduced in both chambers, the Democrats are not strong enough to assure victory, should the GOP attempt to rescind the legislation requiring background checks.
However, Republican politicians are unlikely to persuade a majority of voters that assault weapons are good for them or their children.
The Morse-Giron recalls were a heads-up for Democrats, but not a sign they are wrong on the issues. Unfortunately, it is easier to motivate the discontented than the satisfied, so those who detest the law are more likely to protest than those who are satisfied with the status quo.
The recall election was conducted under circumstances favoring a GOP victory in Morse’s closely divided district. His defeat was likely assured when a lawsuit by Libertarians guaranteed there was not time enough to print and distribute mail ballots.
Last November, 74 percent of Coloradans voted by mail. With no such option available in the Morse and Giron recall elections, Democrats were less successful than Republicans in getting out the vote for in-person elections.
The recall election is a setback, but not a defeat. The majority of Coloradans still favor reasonable gun safety legislation. Democratic legislators should take that message back to Denver in 2014 with the resolve to make it so.