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In 1994, President Clinton signed a crime bill that, among other things, banned the production of certain military-type semi-automatic weapons for civilian use.

At best, it could be seen as a wise move for public safety — no matter your take on the Second Amendment. What practical need is there for a civilian to own such a thing?


Photo via Sanandros/Wikimedia Commons.

At worst, it was another example of politics as usual — collusion among lawmakers and lobbyists to create the illusion of cooperation in the interest of public safety.

The law narrowly made its way through Congress in mostly partisan votes. But the assault weapons ban had major shortcomings that, in light of the shooting in San Bernardino and many others like it, may be haunting us to this day.

1. It wasn't built to last.

Soothing as a salvo at sunset. Photo by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet/Flickr.

The deciding factor in getting the bill through a divided Congress was a sunset provision that gave the law an expiration date 10 years from the day it became law — unless Congress took further action to reinstate it.

With broad support for the ban — including from national police organizations — George W. Bush maintained that he would sign the renewal bill if it came to his desk.

But that day came and went in 2004 without a renewal of the ban from the Republican-controlled Congress, who defied public opinion to protect their political interests.

2. It was riddled with loopholes.

More like bullet holes, I guess. Photo by Jimmy Harris/Flickr.

First, there was no clear definition of what constituted an "assault weapon," wrote Brad Plumer of The Washington Post:

"There are fully automatic weapons, which fire continuously when the trigger is held down. Those have been strictly regulated since 1934. Then there are semiautomatic weapons that reload automatically but fire only once each time the trigger is depressed. ... Congress didn't want to ban all semiautomatic weapons — that would ban most guns, period. So, in crafting the 1994 ban, lawmakers mainly focused on 18 specific firearms, as well as certain military-type features on guns."

Congress's minced approach made it easy for gun makers to tweak features to legally produce weapons that were fundamentally the same as those restricted by the ban.

There were also "grandfather" provisions that gave a pass to semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines produced before the ban took effect.

3. It lacked the resolve seen in other rich countries.

Japan has some of the strictest gun laws in the world, and their low gun-related homicide rate shows it.

A 1996 mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania, an island state south of Australia, ended with 35 dead and 23 wounded. So the Aussies took decisive action to stop future mass shootings.

They banned all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, avoiding the types of loopholes exploited by gun manufacturers in the U.S., and spent a half billion dollars buying back the guns in circulation. Since then, the country has seen zero mass shootings.

In Japan, where all firearms except shotguns and air rifles have been outlawed for decades, they've had as few as two gun-related homicides a year.

The United Kingdom and Canada also have assault weapons bans and strict licensure rules for buying a gun, and both countries experience a fraction of the gun-related deaths we see in the U.S.

Meanwhile in the U.S., "there are depressingly few days — if any — between most mass shootings. More than 75% of the time, there has been another mass shooting on the same day or the day before," wrote Buzzfeed, citing data from ShootingTracker.com.

Politics won't solve the problem of gun violence. Humility over our mistakes and the courage to face them will.

A group of men pray together near the site of the San Bernardino shooting. Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images.

Authorities have confirmed that two of the four weapons used in the San Bernardino shooting were assault rifles "powerful enough to pierce the standard protective vest worn by police officers," said Meredith Davis of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. All of the weapons used were legally purchased.

Guns may be an ingrained part of the American identity, but we have a shameful record with them. And if there's anything we should have learned by now, it's that tinkering around the edges isn't solving the problem.

Banning assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and other impractical gun gadgets doesn't have to mean we're "taking away all the guns."

We can't say with any certainty that a firm ban would solve gun violence, but the stats from our more gun-strict global neighbors are evidence that a law like this could have limited the horror and destruction of events like the shooting in San Bernardino.

And forgoing chances to enact that and other reasonable measures is, to use a related cliché, like shooting ourselves in the feet — or worse.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Education

Teacher of the year explains why he's leaving district in unforgettable 3-minute speech

"I'm leaving in hopes that I can regain the ability to do the job that I love."

Lee Allen

For all of our disagreements in modern American life, there are at least a few things most of us can agree on. One of those is the need for reform in public education. We don't all agree on the solutions but many of the challenges are undeniable: retaining great teachers, reducing classroom size and updating the focus of student curriculums to reflect the ever-changing needs of a globalized workforce.

And while parents, politicians and activists debate those remedies, one voice is all-too-often ignored: that of teachers themselves.

This is why a short video testimony from a teacher in the Atlanta suburb of Gwinnett County went viral recently. After all, it's hard to deny the points made by someone who was just named teacher of the year and used the occasion to announce why he will be leaving the very school district that just honored him with that distinction.

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