Advertisement
Politics

Capitol Journal: Dallas tragedy proves a good guy with a gun shouldn’t be the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun

Dallas shooting
Djuana Franklin is consoled by a passerby as she weeps at the memorial for slain police officers in Dallas.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Remember this drivel?

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Well, that gun lobby rubbish was again disproved in Dallas. 

Twelve good guys — law enforcement men and women trained to shoot — were stopped by one bad guy. Five officers were killed and seven wounded. Two civilians also were injured before the bad guy was finally stopped by a bomb-carrying robot.

Advertisement

How many good guys with guns were there trying to subdue this bad guy? Maybe 100? More?

The bad guy himself, like so many killers, apparently also was a good guy, until he wasn’t anymore — until he decided to shoot white cops. Micah Xavier Johnson, a 25-year-old black man, had no known criminal record or ties to terror groups. He was formerly a U.S. Army reservist stationed in Afghanistan.

Clearly not all terrorism is wrought by radical Muslims, let alone immigrants.

The better way to have stopped this ambushing assassin would have been to deny him his guns in the first place, especially any assault rifle.

Advertisement

It’s called gun control, the two words that trigger a firestorm among the National Rifle Assn., the firearms industry and their Republican robots.

The “good guy with a gun” nonsense was first spewed by NRA head Wayne LaPierre after the December 2012 massacre of 26 children and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

After that, there were mass shootings in Washington, D.C.; Isla Vista; Charleston, S.C.; Roseburg, Ore.; San Bernardino; Orlando, Fla. …

Yet, congressional Republicans still have refused to tighten gun controls nationally — sensible, simple safeguards such as expanding background checks to include sales at gun shows and through the Internet.

Maybe none of it would have stopped the nutty Dallas racist. But one thing might have reduced the sniper’s kill: a national ban on high-capacity ammo magazines, such as the one California long has had and a few days ago significantly strengthened.

The Democratic-dominated California Legislature — unhindered by Republican pledges of allegiance to the gun lobby — has led the way nationally on guns, preserving 2nd Amendment rights while trying to control firepower and who gets to use it.

Something’s working. Nationally, gun deaths have remained roughly the same. But in California, they have dropped more than 20% since 2000, according to Garen J. Wintemute, a longtime UC Davis gun violence researcher.

Advertisement

Gov. Jerry Brown generally has been agnostic on gun control, at least until very recently. On July 1, he surprised many by signing several bills tightening the state’s already-tough laws.

Californians will have the opportunity to strengthen them further in November when they vote on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s gun-control ballot initiative, Proposition 63.

Two bills Brown signed were aimed directly at assault weapons, which ostensibly are banned in California but exist through loopholes. He hadn’t been expected to sign either. But apparently the governor had seen too much bloodshed on TV and was feeling public pressure.

One measure will ban the sale of semiautomatic assault rifles with “bullet buttons” that permit the exchange of ammo magazines. Guns are defined as assault weapons if they include certain military-style features such as a pistol grip or flash suppressor. Those bullet-button guns that already exist will need to be registered.

Another bill will outlaw the possession — not just the sale — of magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Those now owned must be sold to a gun dealer or turned in to law enforcement. But cops won’t be knocking down doors.

“We don’t have the resources to make a sweep of every house in California,” says the bill’s author, Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley). “There’d need to be a warrant to search your house or car for another reason, or if you’re stopped on the street and have one.

“We are now making it absolutely clear that these magazines, which are not designed for hunting or target shooting, but are designed to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, have no place in a civil society.”

One surefire way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to cut off his bullets.

Advertisement

That’s the purpose of a bill by Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) to require instant background checks during ammunition purchases — a simple act of swiping a driver’s license to make sure the customer is not prohibited from owning a gun.

Updates from Sacramento »

A more elaborate ammunition background check would be required under Newsom’s initiative.

Newsom and de León are engaged in a little feud. The two Democrats have competing political agendas. Newsom is running for governor. De León is hoping to back another candidate. And the Senate leader seems to feel he owns the ammo issue. He was pushing it long before the lieutenant governor, having witnessed gun violence up close.

De León has called Newsom’s initiative “irrelevant” because “we [legislators] have taken care of business.” Newsom scoffs at that, saying the senator’s snide remark is “foundationless.”

One unique provision of the initiative — one Newsom considers a biggie — would require seizing a convicted bad guy’s guns before he is sentenced for a crime. Strangely, neither California nor any other state has such a law, he says.

“We’d quickly get thousands and thousands of weapons off the street,” Newsom asserts.

Even the NRA should agree that idea makes sense. But don’t bet on it.

george.skelton@latimes.com

Follow @LATimesSkelton on Twitter

ALSO

In move to ‘enhance public safety,’ Gov. Jerry Brown signs gun-control proposals into law

Capitol Journal:The gun lobby can’t have its cake and eat it too

Full Coverage: Dallas police shooting

 


Newsletter
Get our twice-weekly Politics newsletter
Advertisement