Will This Shooting Be Our 101 California (And Finally Change Something)?

On the afternoon of July 1, 1993, a middle-aged man in a dark suit walked into a law office on the 34th floor of 101 California Street, the striking circular skyscraper near the Embarcadero BART station.

A UC Santa Cruz graduate, former mental health counselor, and failed businessman armed with two Tec-9 pistols, 55-year old Gian Luigi Ferri shot and killed eight people and wounded six others before turning a weapon on himself as police closed in.

Reactions to the 101 California Street massacre aren't so unfamiliar as the feelings we muster today whenever there's a mass shooting, like the one at Umpqua Community College in Oregon this morning. Early reports indicate as many as 13 dead and 20 wounded, according to the Oregonian

But there is one major difference between 101 California and other mass shootings, including the Sandy Hook massacre, the Virginia tech massacre, the Oikos Universty massacre, and the massacres at a Charleston church and a theater in Tennessee: something came of it.

Meaningful gun control laws, including the federal assault weapons ban, directly came about as a result of the murders in San Francisco. Since the ban expired in 2004, shootings in the United States spiked considerably. It does not take a gifted logician to draw an obvious conclusion.

[jump] Then a freshman senator, Sen. Dianne Feinstein used the 101 California shootings to stump for the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. The assault weapons ban prohibited the sale of certain weapons, including the Tec-9 pistol, and also limited the size of detachable ammunition magazines to no more than ten rounds.

During the ban, mass shootings continued at about the same clip as before, according to Mother Jones. Yet after the ban expired in 2004, there was a noticeable uptick in both the frequency of mass shootings and their deadliness.

This is logical: greater access to deadly weapons, and increased capacity for deadliness has equated in more mass shootings. 

And these mass shootings since 2004 have not been met with any legislative fury or sweeping change in gun control laws.

After the Sandy Hook shootings, legislators in San Francisco tried to ban hollowpoint ammunition — bullets specifically designed to rip apart flesh on impact and cause maximum harm — like the Black Talon rounds used by Ferri and also by former South African sprinting champion Oscar Pistorius to kill his girlfriend.

This ban was fought tooth and nail by the NRA, which took this modest proposal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

As many observers have noted, instead of a call to action, mass shootings have become a way  of life in America. This does not need to be so — but it's no wonder that it is, given how hard the NRA fought San Francisco's very limited approach on prohibiting bullets designed to destroy people.

Obviously, prayer has not worked and does not work. If it did, certainly that would have foiled Dylann Roof as he gunned down black churchgoers in Charleston. 

Will this last shooting, at long last, be the tipping point? If it isn't, and if this is the real, true, American normal, then it's only a matter of time. Eventually, this will happen to you — to yourself or someone you love.

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