In no time, Congressmen and candidates who like to talk tough on defense will let the Aurora slaughter slide into the background, and turn back to pushing Americans to pump up military spending.
While a gunman was preparing to turn an assault weapon on moviegoers here at home, candidate Mitt Romney was reportedly vowing to spend hundreds of billions of dollars more on armed forces overseas, telling a group of veterans, "I will not cut the military budget. I will instead expand our essential weapons programs and our active-duty personnel."
But if politicians really want to defend American families from threats, they must first do something about the weapons of mass destruction here at home.
The Aurora movie massacre will produce any number of somber statements of regret for the tragedy, and shock and amazement about a madman doing the inconceivable. But surely some variation on this will happen again, when easily available semi-automatic weapons enable the next in a long series of mass murderers to mow down still more of us. Politicians who fail to offer a way to keep rapid-fire killing machines out of the hands of the next gunman bent of shooting up a school or a mall or a church are grossly negligent in their first duty, to keep our citizens safe.
Comparing threats to our safety is always difficult. But in the eleven years since the horrendous loss of roughly 3,000 lives on 9/11, over 120,000 Americans -- 40 times the number lost in the 9/11 attacks -- have been the victims of murders committed with firearms.
Of course, most of these murders are not committed with guns that fire 10 rounds or more at a non-stop clip. Still, each year almost as many of us are killed by firearms other than handguns -- many of them semi-automatic -- as died on 9/11.
Some talk as if our being exposed to the danger of the next Gabby Giffords, Virginia Tech, Columbine or Aurora attack is just a minor side effect of the freedom to own guns. But what reason would a civilian have for buying an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 100-round magazine, 6,000 rounds of ammunition and full body armor except to be ready to inflict injury on dozens of us at a time?
True, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment protects the right of citizens to own firearms.
The First Amendment also protects my right to free speech. So how is it that we can reasonably restrain our First Amendment rights to avoid the serious injury that might result from someone yelling fire in a crowded theater, but we won't curtail the Second Amendment even enough to keep someone from opening fire in a crowded theater?
Constitutional rights are never absolute, especially where some exercises are dangerous to the foremost constitutional right -- our right to live. So when elected officials and candidates start to fret about the impact on our security from proposed defense cutbacks, it is critical to measure these politicians' sincerity.
They should not insist that our security requires us to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars for extra defense spending overseas during a time of deficits, but remain unwilling even to discuss reasonable ways to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of killers here at home.
Freedom is coupled with responsibility. It is time for those who extol the freedom to bear arms to step forward and show leadership in drawing a line between the weapons reasonably used by lawful gun enthusiasts and the war fighting weapons of choice of the next James Eagan Holmes. They must acknowledge that no amount of defense spending abroad will protect us in a world where such major threats persist right here at home.
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