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2007 - Buckweed fire chars 38,000 acres, destroys 21 homes in Canyon Country and Agua Dulce [story]

Out of Left Field | Commentary by Charlie Vignola
| Monday, Jan 7, 2013

charlievignolaAn open letter to Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita:


Dear Congressman McKeon,

Let me start off by congratulating you on being re-elected to Congress again, especially in a year when so many of your GOP brethren didn’t fare nearly as well.

I’m man enough to admit I didn’t vote for you, believing it was time for some new blood to represent our district and have a shot at serving our fine community. But you won fair and square, so you are now my congressman, charged with representing my interests as well as the interests of all of those who supported you in the last election.

There are many challenges facing us on a local level, but I’d like to take a few moments to talk about an important issue that dovetails with national concerns, as well.

The issue is gun regulation. Yeah, I know, know: Sandy Hook was weeks ago, and every conservative news outlet in America was hoping the furor over a classroom full of murdered 5- and 6-year-olds would’ve blown over by now so we could whistle past the graveyard and ignore a real discussion over gun violence until the next tragedy rears its head. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right?

Well, sorry, but those dead kids are still dead, the grieving isn’t over yet, and the issue still needs to be dealt with.

Yes, I know every Santa Clarita member of the NRA and every non-member who’s a gun owner is already frothing at the mouth at the mere mention of regulating guns, fearful of the slippery slope that will lead to only criminals having guns and the rise of tyranny in America that will surely result if the government doesn’t have a well-armed populace to keep it in check.

Let me be clear, sir: No one is suggesting we get rid of all guns in America. That’s wish-fulfillment, not reality, especially in a country with 300 million guns on the streets and climbing. No, what I’m talking about is common-sense regulations that would be designed to reduce the danger of gun-related violence in America.

Now, we can debate whether the Second Amendment specifies that Americans only have the “right to bear arms” in the context of “a well regulated militia,” as the one-sentence amendment clearly states, but I think there’s one interpretation all rational people can agree upon. The “right to bear arms” doesn’t mean you have the right to bear any and all arms that now exist or will exist in the future, right?

I mean, if you define “arms” in the broadest sense to mean any weapon capable of inflicting injury or death, then surface-to-air missiles and nuclear weapons and rail guns and predator drones and chemical and biological weapons fall into that category.

I don’t think even the most die-hard members of the NRA are making the argument that average citizens should have access to the same level of weaponry as the most elite members of the U.S. military – or maybe they are, and we should all be a lot more terrified that people like that are voting members of the NRA.

My point is, if reasonable people can agree that yes, there are in fact limits to the “arms” average citizens can “bear”; that the Founding Fathers didn’t think people should have access to Buck Rogers-style ray guns if such a thing should ever be invented; then you have to accept the premise that there are limits to the types of weapons to which people should have legal access.

If we accept the premise of law-abiding gun owners that guns are mostly for recreation like hunting or for defending themselves and their families from the occasional home-invasion robber, road rage perpetrator or rapist, then they should have no problem giving up assault weapons and high-volume magazines capable of mowing down dozens of people per minute. Those are weapons of war and should only be available to soldiers tasked with defending our country in times of war – you know, like the “well regulated militia” that the Second Amendment is actually talking about.

You, Congressman McKeon, are the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. You more than nearly anyone else in Congress actually deals with the biggest weapons manufacturers on the entire planet on a daily basis, the people who rain down death on foreign lands for their livelihood.

If you decided to speak up on behalf of all concerned Americans for sane, reasonable gun regulations like banning assault weapons and high-volume ammo clips, and getting rid of the gun show loophole that allows four out of 10 guns to be sold without background checks – well, sir, I believe people would listen to someone with your distinction and experience in guiding our country’s national defense.

I think I speak for many in the community when I say I don’t actually know how you personally feel about sensible gun regulations, especially in the wake of a national tragedy like Sandy Hook. Maybe you’ve been interviewed and quoted on the matter, but I haven’t seen or heard it.

More likely, you’ve scrupulously avoided speaking on the issue because then you’d actually have to take a stand on it, and that’s something that could have serious political repercussions for someone in your position. Which is just a long-winded way of saying you’d have to have courage – a quality that’s sadly in short-supply in the modern Congress.

But that doesn’t have to be the case, sir. If you think America would be a safer country without people having such easy access to weapons of war – you know, like most police, mayors and doctors do – then you have a responsibility to say so, and to take measures as a legislator so that the next school or mall massacre doesn’t happen in your own district.

Conversely, if you think we should arm every teacher in every classroom like NRA head Wayne LaPierre believes we should, if we should not only have assault weapons and 100-bullet clips but also fewer background checks and more access to deadlier weapons of war for average citizens, then have the guts to say so.

But saying and doing nothing about gun violence in America when you owe your political career to the biggest arms dealers in the world is no longer an option, Congressman McKeon. Tens of thousands of your fellow countrymen are dying every year because of it, sir, and your silence comforts no one.

For all of us here in Santa Clarita, I urge you: Let us know where you stand.



Charlie Vignola describes himself as a former College Republican turned liberal Democrat.  A resident of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1999, he works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.



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  1. Larry says:

    I believe the gun control laws in place in California, which are the toughest in the country, would suffice nationally. If you take away guns from the law abiding citizens, only the criminals will have them. It has been proven over and over again that tougher gun control laws don’t reduce crime, in fact they cause an increase in crime. Look at Washington DC. To think that gun control will fix the problem is wrong. Drugs kill more people annually, and drugs are illegal. Use your logic people, take care of your guns, lock them up, but don’t ever give them up.

  2. DMV says:

    Define the Militia first.. Citizens are the militia.. It’s that simple.. Review the Federalist Papers..

  3. Iserved4you says:

    First things first. We need to enact much tougher automobile control laws. Too many drunks are using cars to kill people with.

  4. Wallace says:

    You sir, are an idiot!

  5. k,muhi says:

    Get a life looser

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