There’s nothing like knowing there are crazed gunmen out there with elected officials squarely in their sites to focus political attentions. Which is why it will be interesting to see if official Washington has a stronger reaction to a planned political assassination with a semi-automatic weapon — which is what the FBI says Tucson terror Jared Loughner had in mind Saturday with his .9 millimeter Glock — than it has had in the past to your standard murderous mayhem.
Long Island congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, who went into politics after her husband was killed by a crazed gunman, says she’s going to kick off that debate as early as today by introducing new legislation to keep these weapons out of the hands of the deranged.
“We need to look at how this is going to work, to protect people, certainly citizens, and we have to look at what I can pass,” McCarthy told Politico.com.
Let’s hope she does better than lawmakers did in the wake of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech when the best they could come up with was a new law to make it illegal to sell weapons to people already officially declared mentally ill, as had the shooter who killed 33 there.
Although he was clearly a leading candidate for a strait-jacket, Loughner had never been officially deemed nuts, so the current law didn’t apply to him.
As Gail Collins points out in today’s Times, the Saturday shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others — six fatally — at the shopping mall parking lot was deadlier than the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in nearby Tombstone.
And Loughner never would’ve been able to buy his Glock with its extended clip if the Federal Assault Weapons Ban hadn’t been allowed to sunset in 2004. Which means, as Collins writes, that if the 22-year-old had been limited to your standard assassin’s pistol, we might well have lost a congresswoman, but “not a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Gifford’s 30-year-old constituent services director, and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.”
McCarthy, whose son was also seriously wounded in 1993 when gunman Colin Ferguson vented his demons on a crowded Long Island Rail Road car with a semi-automatic Ruger, is also girding for a familiar fight.
“I don’t want to give the NRA – excuse the pun – the ammunition to come at me either,” she says.