Thursday, January 20th, 2011
(WASHINGTON) —Debate is growing in Congress in the aftermath of the Tucson massacre —not over if lawmakers should appropriately overreact with more laws preventing ultimately unstoppable acts of violence, but over what to pass first that would have no impact on completely deranged, unpredictable lunatics.
In particular are two bills struggling for precedence; one that would limit gun owners to only one bullet per firearm, the “Barney Fife Act” (H.R.5091), and the more ambitious Senate bill, the “Randomness of Existence Restriction Act” (S.604), designed to outlaw absolutely incalculable and unforeseen acts of violence no legislation can prevent.
“The atrocious acts of (Jared Laughner) could have been prevented if gun owners were made to take a page out of Barney Fife’s playbook,” said Barney Fife Act (BFA) co-sponsor Anthony Weiner (D-NY) Tuesday.
The bill tackles “extended clips” for handguns, which have been blamed for the amount of carnage Jared Laughner was able to unleash in only seconds. Barney Fife, the lovable yet dim-witted deputy sheriff played by Don Knotts on the 1960s “Andy Griffith Show,” was famous for only being allowed to carry one bullet due to his ineptitude, but Weiner and other BFA sponsors are now pointing to Fife’s bullet restriction as a serious way to prevent further atrocities by deranged criminals with no regard for the law.
“One gun. One bullet. One shot. Only one chance at mayhem from now on. That’s what we’re saying,” continued Weiner from the House floor Tuesday.
In growing competition for immediate vote is the Senate bill, the “Randomness of Existence Restriction Act,” an admittedly broader, perhaps esoteric bill aimed at outlawing random acts of violence no law has been able to prevent before; in effect, banning the innate arbitrariness of mortal existence.
Said a visibly angry Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the Senate floor Tuesday, “The Senate won’t approve any House measure until the ‘Randomness of Existence Restriction Act’ is passed. The frighteningly haphazard nature of life has to finally be dealt with if we never want another Tucson.”
Under the RER Act, said Schumer, crimes by crazed criminals, acting in total disregard of all local, state, and federal laws already on the books could now be dealt with once and for all. Such aims may seem a tad lofty, but Schumer and others claim the bill reflects an outpour of pleas from constituents.
Said New York University junior and resident Lauren Cvolinich from the Capitol steps Tuesday, “The violence in this country is outrageous and has to stop! That’s why I’ve shown up to protest and cheer anything Congress can do to outlaw all unpredictable tragedies.”
Added Cvolinich, “I just hope the government does something before I also have a 99.8% chance of not being shot by some random fiend.”
Other RERA proponents cite no need for the Barney Fife Act if their bill is passed and signed by President Obama.
“Whether (Laughner) had one bullet or 100 bullets, the result was an act that ultimately couldn’t have been prevented if one is determined enough, regardless of legislation, which proves just how much we must pass this new legislation,” said Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) outside her Capitol office Tuesday. “Banning unforeseen acts of barbarism is what (the RERA) will accomplish, so we won’t need to tackle the extended clip issue…the kind that go into guns.”
WILD CARD: Third Proposal Threatens to Take Center Stage
Even while Boxer and others debate how to properly overreact to the January 8’s tragedy, other approaches are being weighed, such as Congressman Peter King’s (R-NY) proposal making it a federal crime to be a paranoid schizophrenic within 1000 feet of a federal representative. Psychologists have classified Jared Laughner as a “textbook example” of a paranoid schizophrenic. Under his proposal, said King, future tragedies like Tucson will be prevented by the establishment of “Paranoid Schizophrenia Free Zones” surrounding all federal representatives and property.
Said Rep. King via press release Tuesday, “As far back as President Garfield, it has been shown the greatest threats to public officials are not politically motivated assassins, but the mentally deranged, particularly paranoid schizophrenics…My legislation is designed to finally say, ‘Hold it, paranoid schizophrenics, not so fast!’ It will keep those oblivious to all societal laws and mores at a 1000-foot distance from elected leaders, and those leaders out of harm’s way.”
As well-intentioned as King’s proposal is, some House Democrats are reluctant to step on the slippery slope of restrictions affecting the mentally ill. Said Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich to Duh Progressive via carrier pigeon Wednesday, “I know Congressman King means well, but if we start limiting the mobility of certain types of mentally ill people we’ll open a Pandora’s Box of restrictions on all mentally ill people…As a Democrat, I just can’t allow such a large bloc of my supporters to be targeted like that. Oh shit, I said target! –Oh shit, I said it again!”
Kucinich added he would be more willing to vote for the Barney Fife or Randomness of Existence Restriction Acts than King’s proposal, a sentiment shared by Rep. Weiner.
“I’d also entertain the Senate’s fact-of-life-limitation-whatever bill before King’s,” said Weiner Wednesday. “Barring the mentally challenged from being near their representatives sounds good on the surface. But we must take rational measures that would not end up barring us from interacting with our own constituents.”