The cowards. Neither presidential candidate, confronted with mass murder, dared to say the obvious.
“These are weapons of war. They don’t belong on the streets of Miami or any other city in America.” That was former Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, saying in 2009 what national leaders should have said last week. Diaz stood at the street corner where a gunman had sprayed a crowd with an assault rifle, killing two teenagers and wounding nine others.
The Aurora massacre was something more horrific, when a mad gunman went to the movies with his legally purchased weapons of war, including an AR-15 with a 100-round magazine, capable of firing 60 rounds a minute. He killed 12 and wounded 58, causing carnage like a scene from the Syrian civil war.
Both presidential candidates offered soothing words. Cowed by the NRA, neither had the courage, nor the intellectual honesty, to voice doubts about gun policies that abide battlefield scenes in American cities.
But mayors can’t dodge the gruesome reality brought on by the proliferation of assault weapons. When Diaz arrived that day in 2009, the truth was as obvious as the scattered bullet casings and a five-foot wide pool of blood.
“These are weapons of war,” Miami Police Chief John Timoney said in 2008 after Det. James Walker was murdered by a sniper using a Romanian-made assault rifle with a 30-round clip. Walker was hit by multiple rounds. His car had been raked with bullets. Thirty bullet casings were found in the alley where he died.
There was a time when both the killer’s gun and the clip would have been illegal. No presidential candidate wants to recall that saner era before Congress, groveling before the gun lobby, allowed the assault weapons ban to lapse. The year Walker was murdered, a gunman with a Chinese-made MAK-90 rifle killed Miami-Dade police officer Jose Somohano and wounded three others. The shooter had purchased six assault weapons earlier that year from a gun shop in Jacksonville.
Assault weapons, Timoney tried to warn us in 2008, had “become the weapon of choice among gangs here.” In the years since, gangbangers with AK-47s and AR-15s have terrorized Miami-Dade County with of mass shootings, our version of the Aurora massacre, delivered on the installment plan. A dice game shot up — two dead and seven wounded. Gunmen bursting into a birthday party — 12 wounded, two critically. Miami-Dade corrections officer Ciara Lee, 24, and her 2-year-old son, Devin, killed as they slept in their bed when confused gun thugs, firing more than 100 shots, raked the wrong house. In March, a shooter fired into a crowd of mourners outside a North Miami funeral home. Nine wounded. Two killed.
Long before Aurora, it was obvious here and in other cities that America needs to re-examine a gun policy that gives killers easy access to military assault weapons.
“The place for these weapons is on the battlefield,” Miami City Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said after another mass shooting.
Those words should have come from the president last week. They should have come from his challenger.