I have a dream to counter the nightmare of Aurora. I see three or four ex-presidents standing together, speaking truth to the American people. Here is what they would say:
"Our fellow Americans, we have come together not as Democrats or Republicans, but as men who have been privileged to lead this great country. We all treasure the constitution and the Second Amendment. We believe that Americans have the right to own guns. But that amendment does not entitle citizens to own combat weapons like the assault weapon that the Aurora shooter used to kill 12 and wound 58 more in a Colorado theater. The AR-15 assault rifle is a military-style weapon designed to feature high-capacity ammunition magazines capable of firing up to 30 rounds of ammunition without reloading. You don't need an assault weapon to protect your family or shoot a deer. No one should own an assault rifle except our folks in the military and the law enforcement officers who protect us. For 10 years, assault weapons like these were banned in all 50 states until Congress let the Federal Assault Weapons Ban "sunset."
"Our fellow Americans, it's time to reinstate this law. We call upon the men who lead, or want to lead this country, and the Congress, to do the right thing: protect American citizens by restricting the sale of such weapons to those who have been authorized to use them."
Is such a group presidential statement a pipedream?
Former President Jimmy Carter has long called for reinstating the assault weapons ban. So, too, did President Clinton. In 1994 Clinton signed two bills that became the hallmark of such efforts. The Brady Handgun Violence Protection Act required a five-day waiting period and background check for the sale of handguns and created a National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The Assault Weapons bill he signed banned the production and importing of 19 types of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and other guns with similar features, as well as ammunition magazines containing more than 10 rounds.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein remains in the Senate. She led the campaign for the ban after a series of shootings in her state of California, including a 1993 rampage in a San Francisco office building that left eight dead and six wounded. She could help lead the charge in the Senate. And Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, of Long Island, has never stopped trying to ban high-capacity ammunition clips, like the one used to kill 6 people and wound 14, including Rep. Gabby Giffords, in yet another Wild West rampage. McCarthy's own husband was gunned down and her son seriously injured in a shooting in 1993 on a Long Island commuter train.
President George H.W. Bush signed an executive order making it illegal to import Uzis and AK-47s. Even his son, President George W. Bush, whose opposition to gun control may have helped him eke out victory over Al Gore, indicated in 2004 that he would have signed an assault weapons ban reauthorization had Congress approved it.
If not now, when? How many more massacres must Americans endure –the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Columbine, Amish girls, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Gabby Giffords? Can't we do more than pray for families of victims and carry flowers to their graves?
I believe that most Americans would welcome a call-to-arms against combat arms from our former presidents. I think that many have yearned to hear a speech like that from President Obama and Mitt Romney, his would-be replacement. But neither had the guts to mention the "g" word. Instead, they stopped campaigning for two whole days and spoke of the "horrific and tragic" massacre and of coming together as "one American family" to pray and grieve about the "senseless violence," as if we had just suffered a tsunami rather than a historic failure of political courage.
It was pathetic.
Only New York's Mayor Mike Bloomberg called upon Obama and Romney to join him in restricting such weapons. "Soothing words are nice," he said, "but maybe it's time that the two people who want to be president of the United States stand up and tell us what they are going to do about it."
OK. Guns don't kill people. But in Aurora, the undoubtedly unhinged person who struck had four of them—an assault rifle, as well as a Remington 12-gauge shotgun, and two .40 caliber Glock handguns. In the last 60 days, police said, he bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition: more than 3,000 rounds for the assault rifle, 3,000 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition for the two Glocks, and 300 rounds for the 12-gauge shotgun—all on the Internet.
When is enough enough? When will our politicians be moral and principled enough to do more than utter empty platitudes and challenge the gun lobby on what should be a no-brainer?