Printed letters, September 25, 2013

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Contrary to and John Hotchkiss’s letter (“Feds missed warning signs shown by Navy Yard gunman”) andRick Wagner’s column (“Anti-gun crowd uses incorrect news to push extreme gun-control agenda”), Bill Grant’s column (“Navy Yard shooting should send a message to Colorado legislators”) was essentially accurate.

Reportedly, the Naval Yard shooter attempted to purchase (or at least test-fired) an AR-15 at the same gun shop where he purchased the shotgun actually used in the slaughter.

Also reportedly, Alexis was unable to purchase the AR-15 because a Virginia statute limits sales of assault weapons to in-state residents.  If true, then Virginia’s common sense law – a limited “assault weapons ban” – may have prevented even more carnage.

Moreover, if any “assault weapons ban” were unconstitutional – as extreme gun rights advocates insist – then Virginia’s law would also be unconstitutional under both the Second Amendment and the Privileges and Immunities Clause in Article IV, Section 2 (which prohibits a state’s denial of equal rights to U.S. citizens residing in another state).

Recalling that both Republicans and the NRA once supported the 1994 assault weapons ban (until such weapons became big money-makers for gun manufacturers and the NRA), the incident actually supports the proposition that a nationwide assault weapons ban – coupled with closing the “gun show loophole” and limiting magazine capacity—could indeed prevent mentally unstable purchasers from legally acquiring such weapons.

Likewise, contrary to Kathleen Parker’s column (“Mental illness, not gun access, biggest problem in shooting sprees”) and Newt Burkhalter’s on-line letter (“Navy Yard violence exemplifies lapses in nation’s security measures”), mental illness is not the only or “real” contributor to mass shootings, and addressing that component is complicated by medical privacy laws.  Rather, the element common to all incidents of “gun violence” is a gun – whether or not “mental illness” is also involved – and guns can be legally regulated.

However, all those writers are correct in pointing to woefully inadequate background checks as another contributing factor – which is the direct result of Republican-backed (but accepted by Democrats) out-sourcing of traditional personnel security functions to private entities paid based on volume and completion rates rather than thoroughness.

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