There’s a tragic irony to the mass shooting on Monday that left 10 dead at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado. The dictionary reminds us that irony is an “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result.”
You see, the normal or expected result when a city passes a law that prohibits the sale or possession of assault-style weapons would be a reduced likelihood that such a weapon will be used to massacre its citizens. Yet, that’s exactly what happened in Boulder, just 10 days after its local law was overturned by a state court judge because it conflicted with a state law that permits such weapons.
The Boulder law, in addition to banning high-capacity magazines, outlawed certain types of firearms characterized as “assault weapons.” Although the weapon described by Boulder police in their arrest warrant affidavit was not a conventional assault rifle, it would have likely been illegal to purchase and possess in Boulder under the following provision of that local law:
“All semi-automatic center-fire pistols that have any of the following characteristics: Have the capacity to accept a magazine other than in the pistol grip.”
Clearly, from a photo of the weapon as described in the police affidavit, it has the look and functionality of an assault-style weapon, and it appears to violate the now defunct Boulder law. According to the affidavit, the suspect purchased and possessed his weapon on March 16 — just a few days after a state court judge allowed possession of such a weapon in Boulder.
We don’t know if the suspect was even aware of the law, or of the state court decision overruling it, and we have no way of knowing if this tragedy would have been prevented if the Boulder law remained in effect. Yet legislation offers us one of the fastest strategies to get a handle on our growing gun violence problem. The likelihood that this suspect would possess this weapon in the city limits would have been reduced under Boulder’s law. And, if he were caught possessing the weapon — say, during a traffic stop — he could have been cited, and the weapon confiscated.
There are two bills pending before the U.S. Senate right now, already passed by the House, that don’t go nearly as far as the city of Boulder attempted. In fact, these bills simply close existing gaps in background checks required before a gun purchase. This is basic stuff.
The first bill would close the “gun show exception” by requiring the same background check for people privately purchasing guns as for those who walk into a licensed gun shop. The second proposed law would address the scenario that led to the 2015 mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In that case, a young white supremacist obtained his gun because the law said that a gun purchase must be allowed if resolving a background check discrepancy takes too long. Specifically, if the background issue takes more than three days, buyers get their gun. The proposed bill would default to resolving the discrepancy first, before someone who shouldn’t have a gun is handed one.
The two pending bills aren’t so much about “gun control” as they are about people control and restricting people who shouldn’t possess firearms from doing so.
Some might assert that raising the issue of gun legislation immediately on the heels of a deadly shooting is using a tragedy for political purposes. But it’s not; rather, it’s an attempt to prevent the next tragedy.
The horror at the Boulder supermarket took the lives of 10 people. One of those people, police officer Eric Talley, left seven children, ages 7 to 20. Let’s keep talking about and implementing solutions to our gun violence problem so that Officer Tally’s kids aren’t still trying to solve this issue when they’re grown and have kids of their own.