This is to thank Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez.
When I was a kid, a cousin of mine was shuttled in and out of mental health institutions. He had a low draft number, and wasn’t in college, so he knew where his government was sending him. And he was terrified of the Vietnam War. It never made any sense to him, and he knew he’d have to kill people he didn’t see as enemies. He would have been called a conscientious objector, had his family not seen his disposition as crazy instead of sane.
But I was a kid, it was a long time ago and this isn’t about my family’s mistakes. Tom was well-known in the little town in Ohio where he grew up; his father was the local doctor. Everybody knew his story; everyone knew he had problems.
And one day, he walked down to the same general store where I got jawbreakers in the summer and bought himself a rifle and a box of bullets. They greeted him by name before they sold him the goods. He walked home, and shot himself in front of his Mom and Dad.
Other people in other towns have gun stories that touched their lives more deeply and more closely than Tom’s suicide touched mine. Other people have contributed far more to advocating for sane gun control. On another day, with another gun, my cousin might have killed other people before he killed himself. And if it was 40-50 years later, the rifle somebody sold him so casually might have been a bigger, faster instrument of death, in the hands of somebody determined to do harm.
Given the fearsome power of guns capable of firing many rounds very fast, Frank Lautenberg has introduced legislation – Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act – that would prohibit the manufacture and sale of firearm magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Amazingly, the ban already existed – until 2004 when Congress declined to renew it. Lautenberg is primary sponsor in the Senate, Menendez a co-sponsor. In the House, Carolyn McCarthy, whose husband and son were gunned down on the LIRR 17 years ago, is sponsor. Jim Hightower points out the irony more sensible legislation coming from NJ than in Gabrielle Giffords’ home state of Arizona, where the gun lobby rules.
Yesterday, Lautenberg was in Plainfield to talk guns with some people whose lives have already been interrupted by them. He talked a lot about Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose recovery continues. There was a table of guns recovered from the Plainfield streets; ugly things. Police talked about their wild inaccuracy. Plainfield’s had nearly 50 shootings since New Year’s Day 2010, 8 of them homicides.
We owe thanks to both our senators, and to every advocate for sane gun policy, from the neighborhoods and towns to the United States Congress. Thank you.