By the time our nation mourned the horrific acts at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, we as Americans already had endured Columbine and Virginia Tech, along with a number of other mass school shootings that killed 33 people since 1999.
But 20 children, no older than 7, lying dead in a classroom where they were supposed to be learning about the world — that was enough to make many act. Including New York lawmakers.
Led by Sen. Jeffrey Klein, the legislature quickly crafted and passed the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act — otherwise known as the New York SAFE Act — which Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law just weeks after Sandy Hook.
Many considered it one of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, restricting the kinds of guns that could be owned, what size ammunition magazines they can have, background checks for ammunition purchases, and even requiring mental health professionals to report if a patient could be inclined to hurt himself or others.
Yet, like any law, there are loopholes, as long as you know where to look.
The SAFE Act essentially banned military assault weapons like the AR-15 that was reportedly used last week in Parkland, Florida. But as a number of news outlets reported just a few years ago, someone could still own an AR-15 simply by making a few cosmetic changes to the weapon, like changing out its hand grip.
Still, that’s nothing compared to Florida, where it’s actually much easier to buy an AR-15-style rifle than it is a handgun.
That’s right. To purchase a handgun in the Sunshine State, you need to be 21 and wait three days after a background check. But for an assault rifle, you can be 18, and you could actually pick up the weapon the same day.
These are the kinds of laws that make absolutely no sense. Especially as we, as a society, become quite familiar with these weapons because of how they are the weapon of choice for mass murderers.
If you watch cable news, there seems to be so much frustration in this country trying to solve what has become too regular of an event. Yet, the solutions exist to stop mass shootings. It’s just that our elected leaders — especially on the federal level — don’t want to lose those nice campaign dollars from the National Rifle Association.
Instead of hearing about meaningful gun control, we get a lot of nothing. Prayers are nice, but they don’t save lives. Psychological issues are discussed, but it’s usually just a sleight of hand. You know, a “look over there! Nothing to see here!”
Innocent lives were snuffed out senselessly. And we hope it doesn’t take another Sandy Hook to finally do something real to stop this.