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Death by handguns

What the murders at Virginia Tech and on Boston’s streets have in common
By EDITORIAL  |  April 25, 2007

070427_edit-main

The only difference between the carnage wrought on the Virginia Tech campus and the ongoing plague of murders bloodying Boston’s streets is one of intensity.

One aspect of the horror of the Virginia killings is that while they were executed in what appear to be two carefully orchestrated bursts, it took only a matter of minutes for a mentally unstable Tech student to murder 30.

Murder in Boston takes place at a slower, but equally relentless pace. Week by week, multiple gunmen shoot and kill their neighbors at an alarming rate. Every four or five months, Boston’s death toll rivals that of the Virginia massacre.

There is a common denominator in the Virginia and Boston killings: handguns.

Opponents of stricter gun control argue that guns do not kill people, people do. That, in a painfully narrow sense, is true. The zealots who argue along these lines, however, do not seem to consider the possibility that absent access to guns, killers — crazed or otherwise — would have no triggers to pull, no bullets to fire.

Yes, someone hell-bent on murder could always strangle, stab, or beat a victim to death. But handguns make murder all that much easier: the squeeze of a trigger and — bang — someone is dead.

An America without handguns would be a far safer place. Americans own half the guns in the world. And it’s not surprising that the United States has the highest rate of gun deaths — murders, suicides, accidents — among the world’s richest nations.

We don’t think that banning handguns would eliminate murder or suicide or accidental deaths. We are not utopians. We are just betting, predicting, hoping that such deaths would decline.

There is, of course, no political hope of controlling handguns more tightly, just as there is no hope of banning them. Despite all the zany lies and ignorant rhetoric spewed by the right wing, this nation is in a deeply conservative mood. No Democratic candidate for president has the guts to tackle gun control in this deadly gridlocked environment, for fear of offending red-state voters.

The best that blue states such as Massachusetts can do is take stock at home. The good news is that Massachusetts has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. And they are generally well enforced. It is illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase or carry a handgun; “secondary” sales (such as those at flea markets and gun shows) require background checks; the attorney general maintains an exhaustive list of banned high-power models (previous attorney general Thomas Reilly was an anti-gun zealot and his successor Martha Coakley shares his views); rapid-fire magazines of more than 10 rounds are restricted; child-safety locks are required.

However, Massachusetts has a spotty record when it comes to collecting and updating its data for criminal-background checks. The state’s Criminal History Systems Board, which maintains and distributes that information, has long been toiling with ancient computer systems that produce numerous errors. And Massachusetts has been slow in fully automating its adjudication data, which is necessary for keeping accurate felony information. In large part this is the inevitable result of a commonwealth with hundreds of local police departments and a scattered, aging, underfunded court system.

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3 Comments / Add Comment

Canonista

The common link between the VT shooting and Boston's crime problem are more than the mere presence of handguns. Both have more to do with the aberrant behavior of people than the weapons they chose. Both include people who already willfully disobey laws prohibiting murder. Both Virginia Tech and the city of Boston have some of the most restrictive firearms laws in the nation. Perhaps it is the lawmakers who are to blame and not the devices used? Try allowing the citizens todecide for themselves whether or not they choose to be victims instead of mandating that EVERYONE be left defenseless. Let us not forget that a determined deviant will kill even without guns. They could also easily kill as many, if not more, people than have been killed by handguns at any one time. In fact the greatest number of people killed in an American school was done with dynamite and not guns. A simple Google search of the "Bath School disaster" tells the tale. Handguns are not the problem and never have been. The problem lies in the uneven distribution of handguns. When only disturbed people have weapons then innocent lives are left at their mercy.
Posted: May 04 2007 at 9:04 PM

scytale_

This is a moronic article. There ARE handguns and we are allowed to own them... the 2nd Amendment affirms this. Criminals and killers love all the gun haters out there. What better targets than unarmed civilians. India has very restrictive gun laws. Mumbai had 500 dead because the unarmed populace and untrained police could not do anything about the terrorists roaming the streets openly murdering people. Hitler would love you guys... "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing." - Adolf Hitler thanks for reading this
Posted: January 16 2009 at 8:02 PM

scytale_

This is a moronic article. There ARE handguns and we are allowed to own them... the 2nd Amendment affirms this. Criminals and killers love all the gun haters out there. What better targets than unarmed civilians. India has very restrictive gun laws. Mumbai had 500 dead because the unarmed populace and untrained police could not do anything about the terrorists roaming the streets openly murdering people. Hitler would love you guys... "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing." - Adolf Hitler thanks for reading this
Posted: January 16 2009 at 8:31 PM
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