US leaders gun shy

The nerve of President Calderon of Mexico. How dare he come to the United States and utter two words Americans are no longer allowed to speak? I heard them myself in the Rose Garden last week: gun control.

Calderon’s comments came in response to a reporter’s question about the ongoing drug wars in Mexico, in which 11,000 people were killed in 2010 alone. What are you doing about the guns?

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He began by noting that the level of gun violence in Mexico began to escalate in 2004 — the year the U.S. ban on assault weapons expired. During his presidency, Calderon reported, the Mexican military had seized more than 140,000 weapons, most of them assault rifles, and the vast majority of them purchased in the United States and smuggled south across the border.

In fact, Calderon reported, there are 8,000 gun shops along the American border with Mexico. Eight thousand! By his calculation, that adds up to nine gun shops for every Walmart found in all of Mexico and the United States combined. 

And the rate of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants is far greater in Washington, D.C., than in Mexico City.

In effect, standing alongside President Obama, Calderon was telling Americans: If you’re worried about gun violence in Mexico, don’t just blame us. Clean up your own house first. Yet not one reporter asked Obama what he planned to do about the assault weapons ban.

The answer is: not much. On his 2008 campaign website, Obama listed as one of his goals: “making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.” But in April 2009, shortly after taking office, Obama stated he would not push for reinstatement of the ban but work toward an international treaty instead. Nothing has happened. 

And we haven’t seen much more action from Congress. Since its expiration, three bills have been introduced to restore the ban on assault weapons: by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in 2004; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) in 2007; and then-Rep. (now Sen.) Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) in 2008. But not one of them ever reached the floor for a vote. According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, there is no legislation to renew the ban pending in either the House or Senate today.

It’s almost as if, like global warming, the issue of gun control has disappeared from public view. Unfortunately, the reality of gun violence has not. Another campus mass murder, seven killed, in Oakland. Three students gunned down at Chardon High School in Ohio. Trayvon Martin shot and killed while walking home from a 7-Eleven. Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) shot, six constituents killed, outside a Safeway in Tucson. And the list goes on and on. 

The Brady Center estimates that 30,000 Americans are killed every year by gun violence. Yet our political leaders continue to look the other way. Democrats are afraid to raise the issue of gun control. And Republicans would rather ban the pill.

Press is host of the nationally syndicated “Bill Press Show.”



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