Alec Hamilton, Assistant Producer, WNYC News
Alec Hamilton is an Assistant Producer in the WNYC newsroom. She produces Morning Edition and starts her work day very, very early.
Around noon on Thursday, law enforcement officials arrested a 21-year-old man with a history of legal problems and mental health issues and charged him with having fired an assault-style semiautomatic rifle at the White House. The man, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez, is reported to have had a fixation on the White House and the president, according to the New York Times, as well as a criminal record in three states for charges including drugs, domestic violence, and assaulting a police officer.
The arrest comes just two days after survivors of the shooting in Arizona, that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 13 others and killed six, called on Congress to pass stricter gun laws. The Arizona shooter, Jared Lougher, had previously had repeated contact with law enforcement and had been suspended from the local community college until he could get a mental-health clearance to prove he wasn't a danger to himself and others.
Federal law prohibits certain people from owning arms, among those are people who have been convicted of a felony, minors, drug addicts, and the mentally ill. So why can a mentally ill guy with a criminal history still drive to DC, buy an assault weapon, and shoot the White House?
One reason may be the reinstatement of gun rights to thousands of people with felonies, often with minimal or no review, according to recent investigation by the New York Times. The investigation found gun rights restored to even people convicted of violent crimes, including first-degree murder and manslaughter.
With that in mind, It’s A Free Country takes a look at some of the efforts around the country to limit or expand access to firearms:
Yesterday, the House voted to expand people’s ability to carry concealed firearms. H.R. 822, called the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act, passed with 272 votes to 154 votes against. It allows people with a state permit to carry a concealed to carry one in any other state that doesn’t have an outright ban on carrying concealed weapons. Basically the act would override state’s laws regarding gun control, so if someone was permitted to concealed carry in, say, Mississippi, they could carry in New York City as well. Only Washington DC and Illinois prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons. It is unclear what will happen to the Act in the Senate, and whether the President would veto.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president were reportedly considering urging the United States to join a global gun control law proposed by the United Nations. Participation in the Arms Trade Treaty has already met with resistance from the Senate, however.
In March of this year, Texas considered joining Utah as the only state, according to Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (a student group you probably wouldn’t want to make angry) to allow the carrying of a concealed firearm on school grounds. The motion got the majority of votes but failed to gain the two-thirds it needed to pass.