A Bushmaster .233 Remington semiautomatic rifle, one of the weapons used in recent school murders

A Bushmaster .233 Remington semiautomatic rifle, one of the weapons used in recent school murders

What, if anything, should we do with our gun laws?

In the wake of a massacre in Sandy Hook, Conn., that’s just one of the difficult questions facing a nation.

It may be too early to tell, but this tragedy seems to have spurred a deeper impetus for change than previous multiple shootings have done. But the question is: Should changes to ensure safety include changes to laws regarding guns? And if so, what should those changes be?

In the past few days, I’ve spotted a few articles that pitch two straw men against each other. The battle, according to that narrative, is between doing nothing (it’s all fine) to banning all guns.

However, no actual person I’ve ever spoken with sees those as the alternatives. As another has said, we support all the amendments, including the Second. The real question is how to effectuate those enumerated rights in a way that does not infringe upon others.

Just as distracting is the position that the national conversation should just be about mental health. It’s certainly true that our country must establish better methods to address those who are a danger to themselves and others. But surely we can manage to wrestle with more than one concept at a time. Can it really be true that as a nation we must rank the challenges we face (mental health, easy access to large-magazine weapons, school security) and propose solutions to only one?

A hint that the conversation may go farther this time arises in a New York Times story yesterday. It explores the decision of the corporation Cerberus to divest itself of the nation’s largest gun company. That decision goes far beyond previous efforts to address a too-recurring tragedy.

The story is titled “In Unusual Move, Cerberus to Sell Gun Company,” and it opens:

“Sitting in their offices high above Park Avenue late on Monday, the private equity executives who own the country’s largest gun company received a phone call from one of their most influential investors.”

“An official at the California teachers’ pension fund, which has $750 million invested with the private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, was on the line, raising questions about the firm’s ownership of the Freedom Group, the gun maker that made the rifle used in the Connecticut school shootings. Hours later, at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Cerberus said that it was putting the Freedom Group up for sale.”

“‘It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,’ Cerberus said in a statement.”

So I ask for your thoughts: Is this truly a watershed event? And what should or can change in our laws to address it?

Here are a few other resources that cover the topic:

The New York Times has another story, this one on what some state leaders are proposing:

“The first concrete responses to the massacre in Newtown, Conn., began emerging on Tuesday, as state leaders proposed measures to curb gun violence, corporations distanced themselves from an event that has traumatized the nation and the White House pointed to gun control measures that President Obama would champion in the months ahead.”

“The reactions were considerably more broad-based than what had followed previous mass shootings, coming from Republicans as well as Democrats, from gun control advocates and those who have favored gun rights in the past, and even from the corporate and retail worlds. Proponents of stricter controls on firearms said they were cautiously optimistic that, perhaps this time, something concrete and lasting would be enacted.”

And here is an examination of whether proposed laws conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller:

“Despite the sweeping language of a 2008 Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the District of Columbia’s strict gun-control law, the decision appears perfectly consistent with many of the policy options being discussed after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.”

“Legal experts say the decision in the case, District of Columbia v. Heller, has been of mainly symbolic importance so far. There have been more than 500 challenges to gun laws and gun prosecutions since Heller was decided, and vanishingly few of them have succeeded.”

Finally, the Arizona Republic has published multiple opinions on the way forward.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

This Sunday, January 8, Arizonans and many others around the country will recall a horrific shooting that killed six people and injured 13.

Though deaths by loaded weapon are relatively commonplace in this country, certain factors ensured that the Tucson shooting would ring in our memories far longer than the sound of the shots did. Among those felled were U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and U.S. District Court Judge John Roll. Giffords survived; Roll died.

I wrote about the event a few times in 2011, the first time just two days after the shooting:

“The lives of judges and Congress-folk are no more important than the lives of anyone else—not a jot. But a person of my age was raised on a nutritious diet of study—of history, of federalism, of the U.S. Constitution. We learned—and many of us still feel—that our government is OUR government.

“So when a criminal attacks a judge and a member of Congress, he takes arms against all of us. When he ratchets up political dissent to transform it into a chambered round, and then sends his rebellion hurtling out the end of a gun barrel, he aims it at every American citizen.”

(The complete post is here.)

Chief Judge John M. Roll

Since then, I’ve written about Giffords, the shooting, and the coverage of guns in the state more times than I would have guessed I ever would have.

This week, a PBS program shares some stories from survivors and aims to heal some of the wounds that have been made. Read more about it here.

Meanwhile, efforts at civil discourse continue. Another recent one featured former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Have a good and thoughtful weekend.

Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona

According to an announcement this morning from the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona, U. S. Attorney Dennis K. Burke has resigned.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney.

We covered U.S. Attorney Burke and his goals for the office back in January 2010. (He also is a former member of the Arizona Attorney Magazine Editorial Board.)

The Arizona Republic reported on the resignation, noting that it follows on the heels of the recent “Fast & Furious” gun scandal, which has engulfed the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Just today, other outlets reported that ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson had stepped down. The Washington Post reports he has been reassigned.

Republic columnist Laurie Roberts had one of the most intriguing—and quickest—commentaries on what she estimates occurred. (Though Arizona lawyer Faith Klepper has reminded me that lawyer Greg Patterson–who blogs as Espresso Pundit–predicted this back in June.)

Here is Dennis Burke’s resignation letter to President Obama (click to make it larger):

The full release is below. We’ll have more news on this as it become available.

Dennis K. Burke Resigns as U.S. Attorney for District of Arizona 

PHOENIX – Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, has delivered his letter of resignation to President Obama.

In an email to staff, Burke said:

“The work in every corner of this office – your work – has been significant and impressive.  When I first came to this office a decade ago as a line AUSA (Assistant United States Attorney), I knew this was an excellent office and did important work.”

Burke added, “My long tenure in public service has been intensely gratifying.  It has also been intensely demanding.  For me, it is the right time to move on to pursue other aspects of my career and my life and allow the office to move ahead.

Burke was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona in 2009.  His resignation is effective immediately.

Ann Scheel will serve as Acting United States Attorney, under the Vacancies Reform Act and by virtue of her position as First Assistant.  Burke added, “I thank Ann for agreeing to assume these responsibilities until the Attorney General or the President makes an interim or permanent appointment.”

RELEASE NUMBER: 2011-194(Burke)

Today, the Arizona State Senate considers Senate Bill 1610, which would, for the first time, establish that our state has an “official firearm.”

(And, if you were wondering, Sen. Don Shooter, R-24, is a sponsor.)

Here is more about the bill. But to save you the time, here is its complete language:

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Arizona: Section 1.  Title 41, chapter 4.1, article 5, Arizona Revised Statutes, is amended by adding section 41-860.02, to read:

41-860.02. State firearm


This afternoon, when the bill is debated embraced, I will be at another event, and so cannot attend.

Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce

Does that disappoint me? A bit, I suppose. For this would make us only the second state that would fill this glaring “official state gun” gap. And if there’s any state that knows gaps, it’s Arizona.

But given the topic, and the fact that weapons apparently are welcome in the public building that is the Arizona Senate (a policy that appears to conflict with state law), perhaps the wiser course is to watch from afar.

To our rescue comes … technology. Sure, streaming video has none of the gleaming, alluring, clock-like precision and beauty of, say, a Glock with extended magazine. But it does allow any Arizona resident to check in on what their Legislature is doing.

As Senate President Russell Pearce says in his introduction to the website:

“State government should be open and accessible to the public. This Web site helps take the mystery out of what we do at the Senate and brings it closer to the people we serve.”

Glock: In the running for unofficial state firearm

That may be progress, but it may also be a miscalculation. After all, in the condition the state is in, leaving the Legislature shrouded in mystery may be the wisest course.

No matter. Many of us, I hope, will take advantage of watching the sausage made via video. I’m betting immigration activist Salvador Reza will be among that online audience.

Click here to see what’s up. Lock and load.