(Carolyn) McCarthy's tone of righteous indignation and utter horror at the Gillibrand choice stems from the fact that McCarthy's political career was launched, as things so often are these days, by high-profile victimhood. In this case, McCarthy, a political novice, lost her husband in 1983 to one of those horrific random-shooter-massacre incidents that occur far too often in America. She was elected to the state senate on a gun control platform.
One can identify with the burning need to do something, anything, after such an untimely loss, but what has always been so wrong-headed about McCarthy's political career is that the Long Island Railroad Massacre would be many peoples' nomination for an incident illustrating the basic injusice of many gun control laws. The Long Island Massacre is certainly not a slam-dunk illustration of why gun control works.
On an evening in 1983, tired commuters were dozing on their way home from New York City. Suddenly a respectable looking man in a business suit rose from his seat, pulled out a 9mm pistol, got up and began strolling down the aisle shooting. With no one to oppose him, he was able to reload three times. When he stopped to reload a fourth time, three men were able to wrestle him to the floor. By the time this happened, however, 25 people had been shot; six would die from their wounds.
Colin Ferguson, for that was his name, turned out to be a complete lunatic, but the kind who masks his lunacy very well. The gun was purchased legally in California and he had undergone a fairly stringent gun control process to buy it, even waiting for a fifteen day so-called "cooling off period" between the time he applied to buy the gun and the time he picked it up. It's hard to think of ways to keep a Colin Ferguson from getting a gun short of a massive federal effort to outlaw guns everywhere and search people virtually every time they step into a public place, but if a few other passengers had had concealed handguns, Ferguson wouldn't have been allowed to stroll calmly the length of the train car, selecting targets like some kind of connoisseur of killing.
As I have seen living in Israel where 18-year-old men and women slung with M-16 rifles are everywhere, more guns do not necessarily make for more random mass murder. Each time a crime like this has been attempted in Israel (last year, for instance when a man began attempting to run people over with a massive Caterpillar digger), it is shut down within a few minutes by armed bystanders. The average number of dead coming out of these incidents in Israel has been 1 to 3 (including the murderer.)
And now Carolyn McCarthy is set to come sweeping back. I hope this time people will take the time to review what happened on that commuter train on that evening in 1983.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Saturday Morning Reading..
...from across the pond, Stephanie Gutman's blog in the U.K. Telegraph: