Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey worried that the deadly mass shooting spree in Aurora, Colo. will “fade into the background” and nothing will be done to put in place “reasonable gun control laws” to reduce gun violence across the country.
“For me the question has been, you know, what will change as far as any gun control legislation in the wake of Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood – I mean, the list goes on and on,” Ramsey told me this morning on “This Week.” “And unfortunately, in my opinion, the answer is absolutely nothing.”
“There will be a lot of talk, there will be a lot of discussion, there will be some debate,” said Ramsey, who leads the fourth largest police department in the country. “But this will fade into the background, like all those other instances that have occurred, unfortunately, and people will just go on and continue to be able to get their hands on guns and continue to inappropriately use those guns to commit violent acts on the streets of our cities.”
Ramsey blamed a “lack of courage” at the federal level for failing to put in place stricter gun control laws, especially on restricting Internet sales and banning assault weapons.
“I have an issue with people being able to buy ammunition and weapons on the Internet… I don’t know why people need to have assault weapons,” Ramsey said. “There needs to be reasonable gun control put in place. And we talk about this constantly, and absolutely nothing happens, because many of our legislators, unfortunately, at the federal level, lack the courage to do anything.”
Ramsey acknowledged that “gun control isn’t going to totally stop this sort of thing from happening,” but he said it would reduce gun violence that he and other law enforcement face as “a daily occurrence.”
“Incidents like this fortunately don’t occur every day,” Ramsey said. “But what does happen every day is gun violence on the streets of our cities across the country.”
On Friday, 24-year-old James Holmes – armed with four guns that he had legally purchased – allegedly entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. during a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.
Several high-profile mass shootings have happened in the U.S. since President Obama took office, including the Ft. Hood shooting, and the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona in January 2011. But no major gun control legislation has been passed under the current administration, and gun rights have not been a focus of this year’s presidential campaign.
“The president believes we need to take common sense measures that protect the Second Amendment rights of Americans while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing laws do not get them,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said after the incident. Mitt Romney, who signed a ban on assault weapons when he was governor of Massachusetts, said earlier this year that “we have in place all the laws we need.”
On the “This Week” roundtable, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, author the new book, “A Nation of Wusses,” said it was an “incredible act of cowardice” for Congress to let the assault weapons ban expire in 2004.
“Reasonable gun control laws aren’t going to eliminate problems like this from happening, but they’re going to reduce their frequency… Had the Congress not, in an incredible act of cowardice, let the assault weapons ban expire, the gun would have been illegal that he bought,” Rendell said, referring to one of Holmes’ automatic weapons allegedly used in the shooting.
“The founding fathers didn’t think that the right to bear arms included bazookas, assault weapons and all the rest,” said TIME Magazine political columnist Joe Klein. “I think that there are reasonable limits to every last right we have… I think it’s responsible to say that the right to bear arms does not include assault weapons.”
Washingtonpost.com columnist Jennifer Rubin countered that mental health issues may be the bigger problem than access to guns.
“I wouldn’t make the mistake that we can construct the perfect set of gun rules in order to prevent this from happening,” Rubin said. “There are very disturbed people out there. And I think the leap to make this into a gun issue rather than a mental health issue, has a limited payoff.”
ABC News’ George Will agreed that “there are deranged people in the world,” arguing that stricter gun laws may not prevent future violence.
“However meticulously you draft whatever statute you wind up passing, the world is going to remain a broken place and things like this are going to happen,” Will said.
But Klein countered that stricter gun control laws could limit the damage caused by individuals like Holmes.
“George is absolutely right when he says that we can’t prevent these,” Klein said. “But, there are certain restraints we can put on the ability of these crazy people to buy guns, to buy certain kinds of ammunition, and to buy other equipment as well.”