Should we keep waiting for Congressional action on gun safety - or should we regard persistent legislative inaction as a political statement that mass murder is now acceptable in the United States?
The carnage in Orlando is shocking! Or is it possible that we may have forfeited the right to use that word now that mass killings recur on such a routine basis? But, we feel so powerless, even in the midst of a Presidential campaign where our voices should count.
Here's a thought. For the moment let's set aside questions about the shooter's motivation or mental stability. Instead, let's focus on weapons - do Americans believe that all weapoins available to the military for armed combat should be equally available in civilian life? Despite all our "right to bear arms" debate and court decisions, we do not believe we have reached that point.
The United Parish in Brookline spoke out in a special All-Parish Meeting promptly after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. In January 2013 our church sent a letter to the Massachusetts congressional delegation that called for: (1) Reinstating the assault weapons ban; (2) Banning large capacity ammunition magazines and (3) Requiring universal background checks before all gun sales.
So what military weapons are excluded? An AR-15 assault rifle was used in the Orlando massacre (49 killed, 53 wounded). Killers also used the AR-15 in the Aurora theater (12 killed, 70 injured), in Newton CT (26 killed), and in San Bernandino (14 killed). The AR-15 can fire rapidly - up to 45 rounds per minute - using large-capacity magazines loaded with high velocity, lethal bullets (as one of the Orlando surgeons observed, "These are different from 'civilian' bullets.").
So why are 3 million AR-15s in circulation? What hunter, target shooter, or home protector needs such a weapon? In fact, such military assault weapons were banned by federal law for a decade, until Congress failed to renew and update the ban in 2004.
There is more that can be said (and the letter did say more), but how can we justify making the sale of AR-15s lawful?
Isn't it time for each one of us to call or write our two U.S. Senators (Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren) and our U.S. Representative (Joe Kennedy for many of us) to insist that they press ahead on these three steps. You might point out that Massachusetts if one of 7 states that has banned military-style assault weapons. It can be done! But federal action is needed because guns readily flow across state boundaries.