Our Henny Penny Congress

Bill Neinast


Henny Penny or Chicken Little is at it again.  This time, however, she has morphed into members of Congress and the TV networks.

Her message has changed too.  The sky is no longer falling but all the guns going off have her clucking that Armageddon is just around the corner.

Members of Congress are getting hours of free TV time bemoaning the spate of mass shootings in this country.  Their agitation, of course, is that the government must do something to prevent this from ever happening again.

Henny Penny did not convince anyone that the sky was falling.  Will Congress have better luck in panicking the country?   

This is not to belittle or treat lightly the tragedies of the Navy Yard, the theater killings in Aurora, Colorado, the Newtown school rampage, the Fort Hood terrorist attack, and similar incidents.  None should have happened.  None should happen again.

The task facing Congress, however, is much  simpler than the one faced by the chicken. Why can the hand wringers not see it?  

All that is needed is a law to prohibit such activity.  Just make it a crime for anyone to kill another person and impose a punishment of life in prison or execution for anyone who violates the law.

What?  You mean there are already laws on the books that do just that?

Well, then pass laws to keep guns out of the hands of individuals who might use them to kill someone.  Requiring background checks on anyone who wants to buy a rifle might be the answer.

What?  There are already laws requiring such checks?

Gee, this is harder than it first seemed.  Is there not a single new law that can be dreamed up to stop this slaughter?

What about prohibiting assault weapons with magazine clips that hold more than ten bullets?  That, at least, would prevent incidents like the one at the Navy Yard.

What?  Aaron Alexis did not use an assault weapon?  TV newscasters reported for 48 hours or more that the murder weapon was an assault weapon.

What?  You say he used a 12 gauge shot gun like the one quail and water fowl hunters use in their fall and winter outings?

Well, unless those things are plugged to the three shell limit, they can be loaded with six shells.  So why not ban all weapons that hold more than two or three bullets or shells?

What?  That would ban weapons like the old faithful “six shooters” that helped tame the west?

All of this seems to leave only one solution.  The possession of any weapon, regardless of size, shape, magazine size, and possible use, will have to be prohibited.  This is a law abiding country and every man, woman, and child with access to any prohibited weapon will certainly scamper to turn it in for scrap metal.

OK, it’s time to take my tongue out of my cheek.  The foregoing is a facetious attempt to illustrate the obvious.  Laws to prevent the rash of mass shootings were already in effect when the killings occurred.  In every case, the weapons were either legally acquired or stolen.

Unfortunately, also, the recent mass murders are nothing new in this country.  Grant Duwe’s 2007 book, Mass Murder in the United States: A History, chronicled 909 cases of mass murder between 1900 and 1999.

There is, however, one major difference between the murders of the 20th and 21st Centuries.  That difference is today’s instantaneous mass communication, particularly TV coverage.  There is concern by some that flooding the airwaves with the repetition of what was done and how it was done may encourage copy cats or some who want to make a name for themselves.

Aggravating that weeklong repeating of the gruesome pictures and detail of each crime scene is the tendency for the news coverage to be slanted and inaccurate.

An example is the totally inaccurate reporting of the Navy Yards massacre for at least 48 hours.  That slanted reporting was that Alexis entered the facility with an AR 15 and several pistols. 

The facts that finally broke through are that he entered the installation where he worked with a 12 gauge shot gun that he had bought legally a few days previously and acquired the pistols from security guards that he killed or wounded during his shooting spree.

So here’s the perspective.

The loss of the innocent lives mentioned above is hard to understand and accept.  The grieving surviving family members deserve our sincere sympathy and understanding.

The number of innocent lives lost in those massacres, however, pales in comparison with the number of lives lost in automobile accidents caused on highways every day by drunk driving, speeding, reckless driving, texting, inattention and negligence of every imaginable type.  

There are ample laws on the books to prevent every one of these deaths at the end of a gun, in an automobile, or under other circumstances.

Let’s send Henny Penny back to her cage.  Quit screaming about the lack of protection of life and begin enforcing existing laws.  One more law will not avert a single heinous act being hatched in the minds of sick individuals.


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