Return the extremists to the fringes

For a full account of the Highland Park court case, see

Scrolling through the photos of the 26 victims of gun violence in Newtown left me heartbroken, the grief fresh three years after the massacre. Those sweet little faces still haunt me, as do the photos of the principal and teachers who bravely tried to protect them. I can’t imagine the post traumatic stress disorder the first responders must be living with from the trauma of not being able to save them.

And I’m furious that most of our elected leaders have failed to do anything beyond offer their “thoughts and prayers.”

Amid the sadness, there are a few sparks of hope for change on this Christmas Eve.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to accept a case challenging the ban on semiautomatic assault weapons and large capacity magazines in a Chicago suburb, Highland Park, a community that reacted to the Sandy Hook murders with strong determination to be more proactive in protecting its own kids. Every city should do the same, since Congress is incapable of action.

More and more Americans are in favor of enacting universal background checks, a measure that will appear on our November ballot after Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar bill in 2013. The people now have the power to override him.

Just days after the San Bernardino massacre on Dec. 2, Nevada Assemblymember Michele Fiore released her family Christmas card, an offensive spectacle of people dressed in red shirts for the holidays, with small children in arms, flaunting their guns. Fiore laughed off the national indignation and ridicule related to her narcissistic and insensitive photograph, following it up with radio talk about her desire to personally shoot terrorists or refugees. She didn’t seem to know the difference.

But another Nevada politician, former Nevada speaker John Oceguera, surprised many when he publicly quit the National Rifle Association this month, repudiating its no-compromise positions. Cynics may scoff that he is just building support for his congressional campaign in Southern Nevada, but maybe it’s also a sign the political winds have shifted the least little bit.

It’s unfortunate that many Americans are determined to protect themselves by buying more firepower, oblivious to the reality that guns at home lead to a much higher rate of suicide, unintended injuries and homicides.

There are better ways to end the madness.

Check out the strategies on They include common sense solutions about creating a culture of gun safety, ensuring affordable and effective mental health treatment is available and accessible to those in need, and getting Congress to allow the Centers for Disease Control to study gun violence and recommend science-based solutions as they do for any other public health epidemic.

Although it’s clear no law will stop a terrorist, or even a jealous husband, from using guns to murder others, there’s no fathomable reason to allow weapons of war to be purchased by virtually anyone, including the mentally ill and those on the “no fly” terrorist list. There’s no excuse for allowing private sales at gun shows or on the internet to escape a routine background check. We must force our elected officials to replace their allegiance to the NRA with a renewed commitment to our safety.

Vote for universal background checks in Nevada next November. Send a strong message that Nevadans know the difference between responsible gun ownership and the insanity of allowing terrorists and criminals to waltz into a gun show and buy their weapons when they would not be allowed to do the same at a retail store.

Demand that Congress reinstate the ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Immediately. Make mandatory background checks and the ban on assault weapons a litmus test for your vote next year, at federal and state levels. The only way to defeat the NRA’s stranglehold is your voice, your vote. Use it.