Monday, April 20, 2009

Crime: Columbine - ten years of squandered opportunity

Ten years after the Columbine massacre on April 20, it is painfully clear that the United States squandered the opportunity in the last decade to enact policies to reduce and prevent gun violence. More chilling is that the United States continues to slide into a dangerous spiral: unable to confront the powerful interests of the gun lobby and industry that is holding the American government hostage.

However, gun violence prevention advocates said solutions are still immediately available and called for bold leadership in Congress and the White House to lead the fight. For example, the Obama administration should enforce the import ban on assault weapons and press Congress to remove the Tiahrt restrictions that impede ATF's ability to stop illegal gun trafficking, especially weapons flowing into Mexico to arm the drug cartels. The Obama administration should also reverse President Bush's dangerous policy to allow the carrying of concealed weapons in our national parks.

Over the last ten years, and despite overwhelming support from the American people to enact stronger gun laws, the United States has lost significant ground to confront our nation's gun crisis. America's "lost decade" since the Columbine tragedy can be summed up as an appalling record of failed leadership, squandered opportunities, blind ideology, and raw intimidation and power by the gun lobby and industry.

"Our country simply cannot afford to lose any more time, much less a decade, before we act to stem the gun violence epidemic in America," said Barbara Hohlt, Executive Director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence. "Change does not just happen by itself. America needs advocates in our government who are willing to show courage and integrity in fighting for solutions."

During America's lost decade, policymakers beholden to the gun lobby: Gave blanket civil immunity to the gun industry; failed to renew and strengthen the federal assault weapons ban in 2004; refused to mandate background checks on all gun sales, especially at gun shows; allowed for the sheer proliferation of powerful .50 caliber sniper rifles; and prohibited the release of gun crime trace data to law enforcement officers through the Tiahrt Amendment.

Approximately 300,000 Americans have died from gun violence since Columbine. School shootings and massacres continue unabated, and the gun lobby has a stranglehold over Congress.

"Despite overwhelming support nationwide to pass stronger gun laws, politicians' fear of the gun lobby has paralyzed America's response to our gun violence crisis," said Sally Slovenski, Executive Director of FSA. "With little being done to effectively address the intolerable level of gun violence in our country, leadership matters, and it's more critical now than ever."

Source: Freedom States Alliance
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits