They had more in common than unleashing carnage — nearly every gunman in this monthlong series of mass killings was legally entitled to fire his weapons.
So what does that say about the state of gun control laws in this country? One thing appears certain: the regulations aren’t getting stricter. Many recent efforts to change weapons laws have been about easing them.
Despite eight rampages that have claimed 57 lives since March 10, “it hasn’t sparked any national goal to deal with this epidemic. In fact, it’s going the other way,” said Scott Vogel of the Freedom States Alliance, a gun control activist group.
Even President Barack Obama has felt that sway. Last month, 65 House Democrats said they would block any attempt to resurrect an expired federal ban against assault weapons.
The pro-gun Democrats, led by Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, wrote Attorney General Eric Holder saying they opposed not only a ban on military-style guns, but also efforts “to pass any similar law.”
Gun control issues would only produce “a long and divisive fight,” they said, at a time when Congress should be focused on the roiling economy.
A few states are trying to loosen gun restrictions. In the Texas Capitol — where legislators can carry guns — bills easily passed the Senate in recent weeks that would allow employees to bring weapons to work as long as they leave them locked in their cars, and let those packing heat off the legal hook if they walked into a bar that didn’t have signs saying guns weren’t allowed inside.
The state also is considering allowing students licensed to carry a concealed weapon — there are about 300,000 such adults in Texas — to bring guns on campus.
Kansas plans to put a measure on its 2010 ballot that would rewrite the state constitution to make gun ownership a personal, rather than collective, right.
The National Rifle Association, the country’s most powerful gun lobbying group, declined to comment this week on gun control laws.
Groups such as Vogel’s, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, say existing laws are already too weak — just look at the men who received gun permits, legally bought high-powered weapons, and then mowed down family, friends and total strangers in these past few weeks, they say.
Gun enthusiasts say there is no way to prevent human beings from committing insane acts — whether they have a gun permit or not. And studies conflict on whether stricter gun laws lessen gun violence.
On Friday, a depressed and angry Jiverly Wong used a 9 mm and .45-caliber handgun to kill 13 immigrants and service center employees in Binghamton, N.Y., police said.
Questions have been raised over the upstate New York gun permit issued to Wong in 1997. Two years later, he was reported to state police by an informer who claimed Wong was planning a bank heist to feed a crack-cocaine habit. Unlike other areas of the state, including New York City, Wong’s Broome County permit did not have to be renewed.
Local authorities, however, have broad discretion in reviewing and revoking such permits, according to legal experts. Especially when it comes to drug use, criminal behavior and violence.
Binghamton police chief Joseph Zikuski said Tuesday that no robbery occurred and there was no merit to review Wong’s gun permit.