Tom Barrett And The Gun Control Two Step
At some point, we're going to have to have a serious conversation about ways to stop gun violence in this country. Unfortunately, I see little to make me believe that elected officials are willing to offer practical, real world solutions.
Take Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Shortly after the tragic shooting in Connecticut, Barrett and his embattled "yes man" Ed Flynn held a press conference where they displayed several of the "military-style assault weapons" that Milwaukee Police had seized since 2008. Barrett used the occasion to - again- call for mandatory background checks on gun sales; bans on certain types of rifles with high-capacity magazines; and tighter controls on firearm purchases on-line and at gun shows.
In other words, same old same old.
Here's a portion of how the local newspaper covered the press conference:
"As an assortment of confiscated assault weapons lay on a table nearby, Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Edward Flynn on Thursday kept up the pressure on elected officials - both on the state and federal level - to take action to address gun violence. ...
Flynn said that, since 2008, his officers had seized 10,680 firearms in the city - 2200 of which were rifles and 264 classified as military-style assault weapons.
Over the same period, he said, 28 children younger than 13 had been shot on the streets of Milwaukee. This year alone, there have been 86 homicides, 69 of which were committed with firearms. And in the last two years, there have been more than 1000 nonfatal shootings in Milwaukee, he said."
Missing from the story (and apparently unasked by the reporter) is the obvious question: "Chief, of the homicides and nonfatal shootings you have just cited, how many were committed with the military style assault rifles you've just displayed?"
And then a follow-up: "Chief, of the homicides and nonfatal shootings you've referred to, how many were committed by people who purchased firearms at gun shows who would have been unable to do so if there had been a background check as suggested by Mayor Barrett?"
I could go on and on - but I think you get the idea.
I think reasonable people can discuss whether there should be limits on high-capacity magazines and increased background checks on gun purchasers. I mean, who really needs a 20-shot clip?
At the same time, unless we're seriously going to try to confiscate all the "military style assault rifles" and high-capacity ammunition clips currently in the hands of private citizens, it seems to be like a total ban on future sales would be cosmetic at best. Beyond that, from a perspective of reducing gun crime, the impact of the last ban we tried was inconclusive at best.
As a matter of fact, even the threat of a current ban has had the effect of causing sales of these types of items to skyrocket. Talk about the law of unintended consequences!
The real problem with gun violence in Milwaukee (and most other large urban areas) is that too many handguns are in the possession of too many criminals. As such, I wish the Mayor and the Police Chief would spend as much time talking about crime control as they do about gun control.
How about pushing for mandatory minimum sentences for persons who commit crimes with firearms? How about urging the DA's Office not to plea bargain cases involving firearms? How about using the bully pulpit to call out judges who go light on criminals who commit crimes with firearms.
I won't hold my breath waiting for any of that though because it's not politically correct nowadays to push for accountability for those who commit crimes.
Again, I think there are certainly some ways to tighten access to firearms without substantially inconveniencing law-abiding firearms purchasers. I also think it's fair to discuss whether some types of firearms should be subject to increased restrictions.
That said, unless we also start seriously talking about crime control and judicial accountability, things aren't going to get any better.
And everybody knows it ... including the Mayor and the Chief of Police.