In 1966, Truman Capote wrote “In Cold Blood” about the murder of a family in a small Kansas town. An award-winning film was made based upon the tragedy.
Today, some 57 years later, the murder of a family in a rural area would barely make the front page. Mass murders such as the recent horrific event in Lewiston, Maine are now commonplace in schools, recreational facilities and retail establishments.
Within the past week, just prior to the Lewiston tragedy, a judge was gunned down by a father whose custody rights the judge had limited. The circumstances surrounding these events and scores of other mass murders illustrate our collective vulnerability due to the superior status many still insist is provided by the Second Amendment.
As these murders continue, time after time the public offers “thoughts and prayers” to families of the victims and mourns the senseless killings of children and adults who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the meantime, a feckless Congress struggles for weeks to elect a Speaker because many remain beholden to the lingering shadow of an indicted former president fined $10,000 last week by a judge for refusing to keep his mouth shut.
In reality, we are all still held hostage by a government unwilling to face the grim reality that citizens have no reason to possess these weapons of mass destruction. Gun control remains the third rail for too many elected officials who still maintain the right to possess them is as sacred as it was when enacted to protect the militia during the Revolution.
In 1919, following World War I, the United States was besieged by a national crisis of widespread intoxication and domestic violence. Both the House and the Senate concluded that a moratorium on alcohol consumption could reduce the number of incidents. As a result, Prohibition, the 18th Amendment, was enacted, to substantially restrict the consumption of alcohol. Although repealed in 1931, Prohibition succeeded in reducing alcohol related domestic violence during the period and thereafter.
A similar legislative enactment is needed in 2023 since we are all hostages staring down the barrel of the next assault rifle that could murder any of us or our families. Lewiston, Maine is just the latest location that underscores that vulnerability.
Each day, we continue to read the shocking details of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Ironically, the refusal of Congress to pass any meaningful gun control legislation makes us hostages in our own country, endangered by the tactics of unpredictable and unstable individuals still entitled to possess assault weapons.
Unless and until preventive actions are taken concerning their possession, we will probably see many sequels to “In Cold Blood.”
Thoughts and prayers have limits.
Steven Kramer was an assistant attorney general under Massachusetts Attorney General Frank Bellotti from 1980 to ’87.