Mayor Bloomberg is right and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is wrong —this is exactly the time to talk about gun control.
It’s always been crises that drive life-saving reforms, whether the workplace safety laws that were enacted after the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 killed 146, the shipboard safety laws that followed the Titanic disaster that killed 1,500 a year later, the improvements to natural gas processing that came after a 1944 explosion in Cleveland killed 130 — even the environmental movement born in Britain after the killer fog of 1952 led to the deaths of thousands.
So yes, it’s perfectly appropriate to reopen the national debate over gun violence following the murders of 12 people, ranging in age from 6 to 51 years, by an apparent madman in a Colorado movie theater last week. Despite Christie’s contention that bringing up the subject now is “political grandstanding,” it’s perfectly appropriate — and does not in any way diminish concern for the victims.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which Bloomberg co-chairs, launched a campaign on Wednesday to challenge both President Obama and Republican hopeful Mitt Romney to “explain how they will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”
It’s a tall order, and guns cannot be fully eliminated in any foreseeable future, but certain reasonable steps can be taken to reduce the number of Americans killed by guns from the current 34 a day —almost three times as many as were slain in Colorado.
The first is to bring back the assault weapons ban, which was enacted in 1994 and expired in 2004. It would prohibit the manufacture for civilian use of weapons including the theater shooter’s AR-15 rifle and the AK-47 recently used to gun down three men in Springfield Gardens.
Another worthwhile measure that would require legislation is a ban on the sale of ammunition online. That’s how the Colorado suspect got his bullets — not to mention the body armor he wore during the massacre. Absent legislation, UPS and FedEx could voluntarily refuse to ship bullets. The U.S. Postal Service already bans their shipment, so if the private shippers joined in, that would be a de facto prohibition against ordering bullets online.
Lastly, although it would not have prevented an event like the theater shooting, the state Legislature should enact the microstamping bill that’s been on the agenda for years, to better help police identify the culprits after a shooting takes place.
All of these measures are the kind the National Rifle Association opposes, even though the majority of gun owners favor stricter regulations. It’s time for our elected officials to stand up to the NRA and stand up for a safer America. The perfect time, in fact.