Sunday, April 21, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

"There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11," Senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden once famously said of Rudy Giuliani.  Five years later, Joe Biden is vice-president and Rudy Giuliani hasn't changed much.

On Face The Nation (transcript here) Sunday, Giuliani remarked

Unfortunately, I think the way this was presented gave people who wanted to vote against it an out. It never dealt with the mental health aspect of this. So if you say, if this law had been passed would it have prevented Adam Lanza? The sad answer to it is no, it would not have prevented Adam Lanza because Adam Lanza was not in any database indicating that he had mental illness because all that information is kept very private. It's kept very confidential. If we're really going to improve here, if we're really going to be honest with these people you had on the show, and prevent, or attempt to prevent another Sandy Hook, you've got to do something about how secretive all of these mental health records are.

The mental health dodge will not die.  Late last month, court records which were released revealed

To carry out the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, Lanza used 30-round magazines at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy after the previously sealed searches of Lanza's car and home were made public.

"We now know that he left the lower capacity magazines at home," Malloy said in a statement. "This is exactly why we need to ban high capacity magazines and why we need to tighten our assault weapons ban."

Fairness dictates that Rudy Giuliani, now excusing the inexcusable opposition of 42 Republicans and 4 Democrats to extending background checks, be credited with supporting an assault weapons ban when he was U.S. Attorney, a position held prior to his election as mayor of New York City.  Those Senators who cited mental health issues in their opposition to background checks would have voted against the Manchin-Toomey amendment anyway, and would have found another excuse to cite.  Expanded background checks are designed, obviously, to prevent firearms from being sold to mentally ill individuals, as well as to criminals.

Passage would have been a step in the right direction, though further progress would have been unlikely.  A few days earlier, an amendment to re-establish the federal assault weapons ban and one to limit the size of magazines to ten rounds also failed in the U.S. Senate.

As Mark Follman and Gavin Aronsen  noted in Mother Jones

Gun rights advocates argue that larger magazines, which can add convenience for gun owners who enjoy sport shooting, are simply "standard" for semiautomatic handguns and rifles. The debate turns semantic quickly, in the same contentious vein as the one over the definition of "assault weapon." Law enforcement officials, meanwhile, tend to agree that no law-abiding citizen needs high-capacity magazines for self-defense.

Gun rights advocates also commonly argue that mass shooters could kill just as easily by rapidly reloading smaller magazines, and that a ban would make no difference. But such capability requires extensive training under intense conditions, according to Chipman. "Anyone who's been a cop or in the military knows that that's not something you can do unpracticed," he says.

The Tucson mass shooting is telling here in another regard: It was only after Loughner had emptied his 33-round magazine and paused to reload that bystanders were able to tackle him and end the carnage.

Before Giuliani spoke, Erica Lafferty gave what would have been a splendid retort to the former mayor:  "I mean, I've said it a plethora of times before, my mom was not scared in the halls of Sandy Hook, they should not be scared to cast a vote to protect millions of innocent people."

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