With each new report of a brutal firearm attack, our minds can't help but to nearly forget the previous attack. We can only absorb so many events before they begin to blur together. One after another the body count increases, the weapon names are familiar, the tragedies both stir and anesthetize our emotions, and Congress continuously fails to act.
This past weekend in Boynton Beach, Florida, north of Fort Lauderdale, Isidro Zavala entered the home of his ex-wife, Victoria, and forced her to watch as he strangled to death one of their sons, 12-year-old Eduardo. Then Zavala brandished his TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun and fatally shot the other child, 11-year-old Mario. After killing both boys, Zavala spared the life of his ex-wife and, instead, blew his own brains out with a .38-caliber pistol.
The Boynton Beach Police Chief G. Matthew Immler told the press, "She tried fighting him off and begged him to kill her and not the children. He told her she was going to stay alive and suffer the loss of them."
It's not surprising to learn that the weapon of choice, the TEC-9, was one of the assault weapons that had been banned in the 1994-2004 Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, also known as the assault weapons ban. Puppeteered by the National Rifle Association, the Republican Congress, along with the George W. Bush administration and too many Democrats, allowed the ban to expire in 2004. It's also worth noting that the TEC-9 is one of the dozens of weapons listed in Senator Diane Feinstein's newly proposed assault weapons ban.
Would those boys in Florida still be alive if the ban had been renewed? Who knows, but maybe.
Eight-plus years and countless thousands of assault weapon deaths later, Congress has obviously failed to pass a new ban on the deadliest firearms available and, in fact, can't even muster the political balls to pass even the most innocuous gun control laws.
And it doesn't appear likely that Congress will pass another assault weapons ban this year -- or any time soon.
Reports are coming in from all around that President Obama is softening his language on passing a new assault weapons bill, chiefly because it doesn't appear to have enough votes to break an inevitable and unified Republican filibuster. And even if it did, there's no chance of passing the law through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Kicking off his nationwide campaign to pass new gun control legislation, the president's first stop was Minneapolis, not-coincidentally the site of one of the recent gun massacres that the rest of us have forgotten. Back in September, just several months ago, 36-year-old John Andrew Engeldinger entered his former workplace and opened fire, killing five people before taking his own life. Another victim died the following day bringing the body count to seven, including Engeldinger.
Within miles of where the shooting took place, President Obama made a big push for universal background checks, which happen to be supported by a supermajority of Americans as well as by many gun owners. But when it came to discussing an assault weapons ban, he merely called for "a vote" on the legislation, signalling that it's unlikely to pass -- but, as the strategy goes, we might as well get the NRA's congressional drones on record as having voting against it.
At this stage, Harry Reid, who has traditionally opposed gun control legislation, has evidently promised a vote on the assault weapons ban, which is to say he'll call for a vote to either add it as an amendment to a broader package if it doesn't exist, or, if it exists, he'll call for a vote on an amendment to strip it out of the legislation. Either way, there's no real chance of it circumventing the filibuster, and, as I wrote, no chance of it making it through the House. In fact, it's iffy whether the Judiciary Committee will actually deliver a single piece of gun control legislation at all.
It hasn't helped that some gun control groups have softened on the assault weapons ban. John Kessler of Americans for Gun Safety told The Huffington Post's Sam Stein, "When the assault weapons ban comes to the floor, proponents including us will have to contend with the fact that very few assault weapons are actually used in a crime." Kessler continued, "That’s the challenge with passing this law. On the one hand, it seems that in a civil society we should draw a line on what kind of weapon a person can own. And weapons designed for warfare belong on the other side of that line. On the other hand, if you are going to die at the hands of a criminal with a gun, it’s going to be a handgun."
He's clearly conflating military-style assault rifles with assault weapons, which include semi-automatic handguns like the TEC-9. To repeat, the Feinstein legislation includes certain types of handguns, several types of shotguns and the terrifying assault rifles like the Bushmaster AR-15 used at Sandy Hook. Once again, following a deadly gun massacre in 1996, Australia banned assault weapons and engaged in a serious buyback program and as a result "homicides by firearm plunged 59 percent between 1995 and 2006."
Nevertheless, it appears as if we won't see any new bans this year. This naturally begs the question: what kind of extreme beyond-Newtown nightmare will it take to grab these cowards in Congress by the scruff and command them to ignore the NRA's blood money and pass some serious legislation? It's difficult to know what it'll take, but if it's not Sandy Hook and the deaths of 20 children, along with what's becoming a regular headline in the news, I have no blessed idea.