May 3, 2013 — The debate over gun control: Connecting history’s dots, by Susan Sutton

May 3, 2013 by

I’ve heard nary a peep in the current foment over gun control that firearms have stolen our most talented leaders.

Lax security at Ford’s Theatre made President Abraham Lincoln an open and vulnerable target for handgun-wielding John Wilkes Booth, Confederate sympathizer and member of a fanatical terrorist network. A distracted auditorium full of theatergoers, committed to enjoying the latest stage comedy, instead witnessed one of our country’s most horrific tragedies. The magnitude of this paralyzing national tragedy wouldn’t be matched for another 98 years.

In Dallas, Texas, a parade gathering of average Americans, distracted by the thrill of seeing our president pass only yards in front of their eyes, failed to notice the barrel of a rifle sticking obscenely from a raised window at the Texas School Book Depository.

In a few seconds’ time, the Texas governor was shot and President John F. Kennedy was dead. It was street theatre at its most monstrous. The debate as to whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or was part of a terrorist network will go on. We’ll never know for sure because during his transfer from the Dallas County Jail, Oswald himself was murdered by handgun-carrying zealot Jack Ruby.

Five years later, Kennedy’s brother, Robert, had his own presidential bid end abruptly when he was shot in the head by a fanatic with a handgun in another case of lax crowd control.

That same year, l968, our great Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot down on the balcony of his motel room by rifle-toting loner, James Earl Ray.

What was this madness happening in our country? Were these unspeakable tragedies that robbed us of our best and brightest just payment for the privilege of living in an open and free society?

In l981, an assassination attempt on President Reagan by mentally disturbed John Hinkley Jr., seriously wounded Reagan and his assistant, James Brady.

Within a short amount of time, the White House and Congress mobilized for passage of the Brady Act, which laid out banning certain types of weapons and proposed waiting periods and background checks for purchase. Sound familiar?

The National Rife Association spent millions on its campaign to block the Brady Bill’s passage. Lawsuits in a number of states funded by the NRA wended at a snail’s pace all the way to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled that background checks – as enacted — were unconstitutional. After a fight lasting 12 years, President Clinton in 1993 finally signed the Brady Bill, but by that time it was a mere shadow of its original self.

Do we have the time and money to watch helplessly as history repeats itself?

— Susan Sutton is Dean of Humanities and Social-Behavioral Sciences at Cloud County Community College and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.

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