Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 10.29.01


Open Arms

Gun control had become a non-issue in the 2002 election campaign until early October, when two maniacs with an assault rifle began murdering citizens in the DC area.

It took the lives of ten people and the grievous injury of three more to resurrect the issue. One result of the sniper's crimes has been the postponement of a National Rifle Association bill that would immunize the gun industry from lawsuits.

Just as Pope Charlton the First called off an NRA rally in Denver after the Columbine shootings, so Rep. Cliff Stearns R-Fla. announced that Republican leaders had decided to "postpone" any action on the bill as the timing was deemed inappropriate.

He's right about that. You can try and sell snowmaking equipment during a snowstorm but nobody is going to buy.

In the wake of the sniper slayings "ballistic fingerprinting" has become a hot topic. The system of firing every new weapon sold and recording its ballistics has been widely tested and has the support of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in addition to national police unions.

Had a national system of ballistic fingerprinting been in place, the police would have detected the identity of the DC sniper early in the investigation and lives would have been saved.

Guess who is against it?

George Bush and the NRA. Besides Israel, the NRA pulls more strings in Washington than any other lobbying group. Their decades of intransigence in the face of gun death and destruction is legendary.

Typically, they are arguing against ballistic fingerprinting by taking a view that is totally without merit. They claim that the process is national gun registry in disguise.

It is not.

Guns would be registered by ballistics before sale and only linked to the buyer when a crime is committed.

Not that national gun registry is a bad idea.

We are a nation where every car is registered, every credit card purchase is put into a database, and every internet transaction results in several wretched organizations knowing your e-mail address.

Still, our government in their fear of the NRA does not have the backbone to register lethal weapons.

Not surprisingly, the timid Democrats have avoided the issue of gun control in the run-up to this election. They tremble at the thought of opposing the NRA Gestapo who typically open their war chests to squash any candidate willing to tamper with our Pakistan-like gun regulations. Now, in the wake of the DC sniper shootings, any mention of new sensible gun control measures will be seen as playing politics with tragedy.

Not only is ballistic fingerprinting a necessity for reducing the preventable death rate in this country; so is closing the gun show loophole.

Currently any terrorist, mass murderer, or Republican can walk into a gun show, buy a sniper-quality assault weapon, walk to the parking lot and start shooting. How ludicrous to require background checks in legitimate gun shops and then allow roving bands of arms dealers to set up shop at the local high school gym and sell weapons to any lunatic with cash.

One of the DC snipers, John Muhammad, was banned from owning firearms due to a previous restraining order taken out by his former wife. Did he purchase his weapon at a gun show? If I was a criminal with a penchant for mass murder that's how I would do it.

The paralyzing quality of the sniper shootings cannot have been lost on organizations like Al Qaeda. The ease with which these two borderline individuals kept police at bay and citizens in fear must have given them ideas. Suicide snipers might be the next disaster ready to befall our nation.

The NRA have proven time and again that they are in the business of protecting the gun industry and are more than willing to sacrifice any number of American citizens as "collateral damage."

Right now, Al Qaeda moles could be preparing their NRA membership applications. I have no doubt they will be welcomed with "open arms" -- if you'll pardon the pun.