Going through some old papers from my days as a copy editor for MPG in Plymouth, Mass. (see this post for more details), I came across the headline “Gunned down: Gun owners rush local stores to buy semi-automatic rifles.” It was the lead story in the “South of Boston” tabloid insert of March 22-23, 1989, distributed with the weekly papers of Carver, Duxbury, Pembroke, Kingston, Hanson, Halifax/Plympton, and Marshfield. The article ran two months after the Cleveland Elementary School massacre in Stockton, California, where a mentally ill man killed five elementary school students and wounded 29 others before, in time-honored fashion, turning the gun on himself. “Both the [George H.W. Bush] Administration and the governor [Dukakis] are considering bans on semi-automatic assault rifles,” read the article. “People flocked to Colman’s Sporting Goods in Hanover, and M&M Sporting Goods in Plymouth last week looking for semi-automatic assault rifles after the Bush Administration imposed a temporary ban on their importation.
“But ban critics say the weapon is not the problem, the criminal is. They support increased penalties against criminal use of the guns and better treatment for mentally disturbed people so that similar incidents can be prevented…Frank Cole, president of the Marshfield Rod & Gun Club, said tens of thousands of people are killed by cars each year, but there’s no effort to ban cars.”
And on and on it goes…we seem to have been stuck in a time loop for at least the past 24 years where this debate is concerned, and round and round we go again. Nothing seems to change but the names, the places and the dates. And we tuck our soundbites away while we wait for the next Stockton or Newtown.