On the day of the Marathon bombings, I was out exercising, taking a 50-mile bicycle ride, which meant I did not know of the bombing until almost 2 hours after they occurred. I was stunned, and glued to the television for hours afterwards. When I first saw, and heard, the recording of the bombs going off, my first reaction was that they were small. My thought was that they power was approximately that of a single artillery round. That told me we were not dealing with a well-organized terrorist, although I knew immediately it was a terrorist. We are fortunate that these men, Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, could not carry out an attack with IEDs such as are known in Iraq and Afghanistan, was quite fortunate. Not to minimalized the deaths of those 3 who were killed by these bombs, but it certainly could have been a lot worse.
The picture were are getting of the Tsarnaev brothers leads us to believe that Tamerlan embraced some sort of radical Islam on a trip in 2009 to Chechnya. By 2011 he was on the FBI’s radar after a, as yet unknown, foreign country requested information on him. But all accounts of his brother, Tsarnaev, suggests a youth who was drawn in by his brothers radicalism, and not of his own undertaking. Still, he is guilty of acts that should land him in prison for the rest of his natural life if the government choses not to pursue the death penalty.
But at this point I feel it only responsible to point out that long standing positions of the NRA and conservative members of Congress aided Tsarnaev. How so? Massachusetts has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation and yet Tsarnaev had a sizeable cache’ of weapons. They were probably legally procured too. Or were they? Tamerlan was a legal permanent resident but not a naturalized US citizen. That being so, Massachusetts law prohibits the sale of guns to non-US citizens. The loophole, of course, is the internet. Massachusetts law requires a background check using the NICS (National Instant Check System) prior to the sale of any gun. This database is used to identify individuals who are barred from gun purchases. Had there been no loopholes, and better laws, the FBI could have, in 2011, flagged Tamerlan in the database as someone they would want to know about should he attempt a gun purchase. But for some reason, we do not know yet, that did not happen. Furthermore, the NRA and its cronies, have doggedly blocked all attempts to require gun powder makers to put a marker in their product to identify who produced it.
The gun lobby’s declaration that background checks and registration denies access to guns to law abiding citizens should ring rather hollow by now. By all accounts, these two men were, prior to April 15 2011, law abiding citizens. And yet, one of them was a person of interest to the FBI who, it appears, eluded detection because of a lack of laws and controls.
The violence of Columbine, Sandy Hook and Boston is not only going to continue but with increasing frequency if we do not put controls into place. The simple fact is, truly law abiding citizens who harbor no ill-intent have nothing to fear of comprehensive background checks and gun registrations. Law abiding gun dealers have nothing to fear either. But right now, commerce is trumping public safety. There really is, and never was, a good argument against comprehensive background checks and registration. And while this may not have stopped the bombing, it would certainly have given Tamerland Tsarnaev reason to pause before he attempted to purchase what became weapons of mass destruction.