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OPINION: In a League of His Own
Shirley King | Avenida Primavera

 

Photo illustration Art Olson

 

The City’s Resolution supporting United States Senate Bill 150, The Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 (Feinstein), introduced by Council Members Haydu and Mosier, was affirmed by a vote of 4 to 1. Mayor Sinnott was the sole nay. He detailed his script of reasons, which he admitted were subjective evaluations, but disappointingly were no different from the oft-told bullet points from those clinging to Dodge City.

Mayor Sinnott’s ‘no’ vote runs contrary to the direction of the National League of Cities (NLC). NLC released a statement of endorsement for Bill 150 on January 24, 2013:

“NLC shares Senator Feinstein’s goals of keeping deadly assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices off the streets of America’s cities and towns, and endorses this legislation.” The NLC is not a small voice, but one advocating for 19,000 cities, towns and villages and more than 218 million Americans.

The primary question troubling Mayor Sinnott was what good would our Federal government accomplish with this measure (Bill 150) to ban semi-automatic weapons and high capacity ammunition and accessories to reduce gun violence. The answer is likely much more than the 1994-2004 Assault Weapons Ban according to Professor Christopher Koper, author of the final report about the 1994 ban.

At the Summit on Reducing Gun Violence in America convened at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health this past January Professor Koper asserted the results of the 1994 ban were negligible. But a better law that incorporates more carefully-crafted definitions to reduce the risks could produce a small reduction in shootings, perhaps 5 percent. “At the current level of our gun violence, achieving even a 1 percent reduction in fatal and non-fatal criminal shootings would prevent approximately 650 shootings annually - a nontrivial benefit for our society” states Koper. So our government can do something to reduce violent gun deaths. The Johns Hopkins Summit of gun policy experts recommended the ban of future sales of assault weapons and the sale and possession of large capacity ammunition magazines and much more.

Coming back to Mayor Sinnott’s fundamental question, he blamed other factors including the 310,000,000 guns that are already in households, gun-users who are driven by undetermined motivations, the media who magnify the results of those who rampage, and public institutions that are “soft targets”. And as he sees it, some of the necessary interventions would be stronger background checks, more focus on the mental health factors, stiffer penalties for gun crimes and securing our schools. Was he suggesting that our leaders are soft on crime and the solution is arming our schools?

Mayor Sinnott’s central dilemma about what can be done about gun violence, reflects a real epidemic of narrow thinking in our nation regarding this highly divisive issue of gun control – holding on to 1970’s myths, cherry-picking data to confirm one’s own intuitive notions and insisting that the world hasn’t gone far enough in having more guns in more places – good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns. Our Mayor missed the opportunity to broaden the discussion from his position of advantage on the dais. Passing this Resolution was more than a symbolic act. It connected our community’s voice with the national conversation; one not echoed by him.

To see the full recommendations of the Johns Hopkins Summit, go to http://www.jhsph.edu/events/gun-policy-summit


 

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