Tuesday, January 17, 2006

This Day in 1989 in CD-11

Seventeen years ago today
…on a warm, sunny morning at 11:42 a.m. on January 17, 1989, Patrick Purdy walked into the crowded schoolyard of Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California armed with his AK-47 semiautomatic rifle, and opened fire on the nearly 400 children who were playing outside for recess. Two minutes and over 100 rounds of ammunition later, five children lay murdered and twenty-nine other children and one teacher lay wounded.

In the wake of the Stockton Massacre, as it came to be known, public outcry over the proliferation of semiautomatic weapons in American society reached a crescendo. In that same year and as a direct result of the horrific events at Cleveland Elementary School, California became the first state to ban certain types of assault weapons. Subsequently, a handful of other states followed suit. But an all-encompassing federal assault weapons ban remained elusive. In 1992, Dianne Feinstein was elected to the Senate, and she immediately went to work to fulfill one of her campaign promises, championing a federal law that would stop sales of not only the most notorious of the semiautomatic weapons, such as AK-47s and Uzis, but their many imitators.

Americans may have correctly discerned that banning all guns is not an appropriate (or constitutional) solution. But every so often, an event or series of events – mob violence, assassination – jars the national consciousness and incites public demand for reasonable and measured gun control.

Stockton was just such an event. Its tolerance of rising crime already stretched to the limit and its anger and frustration with Congressional inability to make significant headway at a peak, the public simply could not understand why they had to tolerate these guns in their neighborhoods. Surely there was a line to be drawn somewhere, and while reasonable people could differ as to the proper place, most agreed that, wherever the line was, these guns had crossed it.

Finally, on September 13, 1994, five and a half years after the Stockton Massacre, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was signed into law by Bill Clinton as part of a far larger crime bill. Less than two months later, the Democratic Party was swept from power in the House. Although over 70% of Americans supported a ban of semiautomatic weapons, the NRA claimed that the vote was retribution for Democratic support of both the Brady Bill and the assault weapons ban.

As the result of a compromise reached to ensure its passage, the ban enacted in 1994 had a ten-year sunset clause written into it. In 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired. When he ran for president in 2000, George W. Bush had promised the American public that he would sign an extension of the bill if it came to his desk. He never got the chance. The extension was killed in Congress.

Of course, it will come as no surprise to readers of Say No To Pombo that Congressman Richard Pombo voted against the Federal Assault Weapons Ban every time he was given the opportunity to do so.

Now, believe me, I understand that the issue of gun control is a difficult one, especially in the Central Valley; guns and hunting are an integral part of the lives of many, if not most, of its residents, cutting across a wide range of political beliefs. Democratic challengers to Richard Pombo need to understand that reality. But many of us additionally believe that we must distinguish between normal guns or rifles and assault weapons that are “designed for one purpose –- to kill as many people as possible as quickly as possible. No hunter or sportsman needs these features.”

So exactly where do the three Democratic candidates stand on this issue? Well, I’ve heard Jerry McNerney speak, and he says that he owns guns and supports gun ownership. I have heard through the grapevine that he supports a Federal Assault Weapons Ban, but as far as I am aware, he has not directly addressed the issue. I have heard Steve Filson speak, and he has said that he is a “proponent of gun safety,” without specifying what that might mean; his website offers no comment on gun safety. I have never heard Steve Thomas speak, and his website doesn’t delve into any aspect of gun control issues.

Obviously, I hope that all three of these candidates, if they intend to mount a serious challenge to Richard Pombo, will develop a clear, well-reasoned, and nuanced approach to the myriad issues surrounding gun ownership. I also hope that on this day, seventeen years after the terror on the Cleveland Elementary School playground, our Democratic candidates will honor the memory of the children who died and those who were injured by pledging to support a re-enactment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.


Blogger D.M. said...

The problem with gun control, at any level, is the assumptions made by those to the left side of politics. They assume that: 1. gun control means fewer crimes; 2. guns are only to be used for hunting purposes; and 3, that everyone who owns guns is a risk.

Let us look at these erroneous assumptions individually. The first one is easily disproven as the cities and states with the tightest gun control have the higher crime rates while those cities and states with less restrictive gun control have lower crime rates. Coincidence? I think not. Who breaks the laws? Criminals, so why does the government care whether or not law-abiding citizens have fire-arms.

The second assumption is that guns are to be used for "sport and hunting". No, these are the secondary reasons we should be allowed to have them. The primary reason is protection from criminals (who will have guns legal or not) and from the possibility of a government taking our rights. Wheneve you see, in history, a leader take the fire-arms of a people you almost immediatly see the governent take other rights directly after that. Why? Because who will stop them now?

The third dangerous assumption made is that everyone who legally owns guns is a risk. I think if you were to actually look at statistics instead of citing a few, extremely rare, stories you would find that crimes that invovled fire-arms routinely were illegally possessed (i.e. stolen or taken from a family member). If someone is going to go to the trouble of legally purchasing a gun, filing the paperwork, having the background checks run, paying dealer fees, ect. they probably aren't going to commit a crime with that gun that now has their information all over it. That is just me though.

Si vis pacem para bellum. And don't go too far into the dark side.

10:57 AM, January 17, 2006  
Anonymous nicholas said...

i remember this day well..dmrose, you've made some very interesting points. thanks for sharing...

1:09 PM, January 17, 2006  
Anonymous centrist "D" said...

You start off your comment with an assumption about what "those to the left" assume. I would have read your post with a more open mind had you not started by making such a broad generalization.

You say that I assume gun control means fewer crimes and that this is easily disproven. First, I do believe that gun control probably means fewer vioelnt deaths. Which is a very different statistic. Second, the correlation you make between localities with strict gun control laws and higher crime rates is not a proof of anything. We could probably debate back and forth about this, but dont confuse correlation with proof.

I am going to skip your second and third points and tell you why this resident of the "left side of politics" wants gun control. I worry about my kids playing in a house where guns are legally owned, but not properly stored. I would be interested in the statistics about what percentage of guns are safely stored.

2:12 PM, January 17, 2006  
Anonymous babaloo said...

d.m. rose --

I would cite the case of Gian Luigi Ferre. Due to the 1989 statewide assault weapons ban that resulted from the Stockton Massacre, Ferre was unable to legally acquire semiautomatic weapons in California. Because there was no federal ban, in 1993, Ferre simply traveled to Nevada, where he legally obtained three assault weapons, which he subsequently used in the 101 California Massacre. In subsequent litigation surrounding the case, the court agreed with the undisputed testimony of Police Chief Leonard J. Supenski, “a nationally recognized firearms expert,” when it stated the following:

"...the TEC-DC9 is 'completely useless' for hunting, is never used by competitive or recreational shooters and 'has no legitimate sporting use.' The weapon is designed to engage multiple targets during rapid sustained fire. It has no practical value for self-defense and is hazardous when used for that purpose due to its weight, inaccuracy, and firepower, he stated. The fact that the TEC-DC9 is designed primarily for 'spray fire' would present a 'severe threat' to innocent bystanders, who would also be endangered by the full-metal jacketed ammunition recommended for the weapon, which 'will penetrate a human body and keep on moving.' Supenski agreed with a BATF statement that assault weapons such as the TEC-DC9 'were designed for rapid fire, close quarter shooting at human beings. That is why they were put together the way they were. You will not find these guns in a duck blind or at the Olympics. They are mass produced mayhem."

2:26 PM, January 17, 2006  
Anonymous jbmendel said...

I'm not embarrassed of my lefty answer:

We should be thinking long term, and long term we want to get rid of violent crime. Some 40,000 gun deaths and some half a million other gun related crimes annually are not unavoidable in the long run.

Strict gun control would do very little in the short run. After all, there are an awful lot of guns out there already and as you say, the criminals will have a gun legal or not. So how do we change that last fact?

We cut off the spigot and slowly erode the supply of existing weapons. Pass a law declaring that existing guns cannot be gifted or inherited. Criminals will still have guns, but that supply will decrease every time one is used. Yes, it will take generations, but the long term is what we're all about in my Democratic Party.

And does anybody else find it ironic that d.m. is with the Right on gun control but apparently concerned about government taking our civil liberties?

12:12 AM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi guys, I sympathyize with certain points of the original post and all the comments. However, I must point out two things:

Neither the AK-47 nor the Uzi are semiautomatic weapons. They are both fully automatic weapons, and neither of them has ever been legal in the United States without a very expensive and difficult to obtain BATF waiver.

Secondly, I agree with point #2 of d.m. rose. The second amendment protects our right to violently overthow a totalitarian government. It does not protect our right to shoot squirrels. If you can't think of any reason why you might want to overthrow a government, you haven't been paying attention to Bush lately.

Last point: gun control is a loser issue in SJ county and there's essentially no upside to talking about it.

8:21 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous babaloo said...

Anon --

Both the AK-47 and the Uzi are available in fully automatic AND semiautomatic versions. You are correct; the automatic versions have long been banned. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban, however, limited the sale of the semiautomatic versions of these weapons. The distinction, by the way, between fully automatic and semiautomatic is that an automatic firearm will continue to fire as long as the trigger is depressed; a semiautomatic weapon will only fire one round per trigger depression.

As to d.m. rose's second issue (which I admit I rather pointedly ignored, given his militia-style "si vis pacem para bellum" sign-off), I personally, as much as I abhor Bush and our current government, feel considerably less physically threatened by them than I do a by a TEC-9-totin' psychopath with nothing left to lose.

And as to your final point, I totally agree that gun control, in general, is a losing issue in the Central Valley. I just think that there might be a little room, especially with such an egregiously destructive type of weapon and a populace that experienced such a gut-wrenching tragedy up close and personal, to stand up for a society that promotes LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness rather than a culture of murder and mayhem.

10:49 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Mr. Natural said...

d.m.rose assumes a lot. I am a vet released in 69 honorable discharge in 71, you do the math. Listen up you flying monkey...New Zealand has NO hand guns and NO hand gun crime. Tell ya anything? There ARE places on this planet that have gun control AND universal health insurance AND national parks that are really NICE places. America can be such a nice place if we can get rid of people like POMBO/ABRAMOFF/BUSH/RUMSFELD/ROVE/ALITO

Great blog with a great reson to be. I live in Washington, and am happy to help dump Pombo.

10:39 AM, January 20, 2006  

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