After the Arizona shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords grabbed the nation’s attention this week, we all knew there would be knee-jerk legislation in Congress. Not surprisingly, a lot of it is anti-gun legislation. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s new proposal would require background checks for all gun sales (including sales at gun shows), but that would not have made any difference in the case of Jared Loughner, the Arizona shooter.
Gary Ackerman has been a congressman since 1983, and in all that time he has never really developed a reputation as a proponent of anti-gun laws. He is, instead, probably most famous for introducing legislation to compel hospitals to give mothers the results of infant HIV tests and promoting the “heroes” series of postage stamps, with proceeds helping victims of 9/11. Gary Ackerman – Wikipedia. Downloaded 1/13/2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Ackerman.
But current events apparently directed Gary Ackerman’s attention to the issue of gun control this week. Last Saturday, Jared Loughner, a 22-year-old loner and reported nihilist from Tucson, Arizona shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, wounded numerous bystanders, and killed six people including a federal judge. [Source: “Shooting suspect’s nihilism rose with isolation – Yahoo! News.” The top news headlines on current events from Yahoo! News. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2011.
While many other Democrats blamed talk radio’s vitriol for the shooting, Gary Ackerman blamed guns. The Congressman has introduced the third gun control bill since the Arizona shootings. Ackerman’s version would require background checks for all gun sales – including sales at gun shows. Ackerman stated that, “Congress must close troubling loopholes in federal gun control laws that let firearms fall into the hands of… emotionally disturbed individuals.” [Source: Kapur, Sahil. “Third gun control bill proposed since Tucson shooting,” Rawstory.com. Downloaded 1/13/2011 from: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/ny-dem-proposes-guncontrol-bill-tucson-shootings/]
But there are two glaring problems with Gary Ackerman’s thinking: First, shooter Jared Loughner was subjected to a background check when he purchased the gun used in the shootings (albeit an “instant” background check – see http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/ny-dem-proposes-guncontrol-bill-tucson-shootings/]. Second, there is no reason to believe that background checks will identify “emotionally disturbed individuals.” Emotional disturbances develop over time, and can affect people with no criminal background.
Although I have not read the text of Gary Ackerman’s new bill, his own explanation of the proposed law’s purpose makes it clear that it would not have stopped Jared Loughner from buying a gun. Consequently, the intentional timing of the bill right after the Arizona shootings seems disingenuous and misleading.
Gary Ackerman – Wikipedia. Downloaded 1/13/2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Ackerman.
Kapur, Sahil. “Third gun control bill proposed since Tucson shooting,” Rawstory.com. Downloaded 1/13/2011 from: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/ny-dem-proposes-guncontrol-bill-tucson-shootings/
“Shooting suspect’s nihilism rose with isolation – Yahoo! News.” The top news headlines on current events from Yahoo! News. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Jan. 2011.