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Feb 14, 2019: Image of Valentine’s Day changing in the United States?

UNITED STATES - Three bloodstained anniversaries on Valentine’s Day 2019 intrude on the yearly celebration of love, and two of the most recent milestones will intensify the country’s bitter debate about guns.

The probable rallies and protests on the anniversary will be more massive if lawmakers have done nothing during 2018 to curb access to high-powered weapons.

The first of the three anniversaries marks the beheading in 278 AD of the patron saint of the feast day, St. Valentine. His name has been affixed to Feb 14 each year, but his precise connection with the traditional date for exchanging love messages, poems and gifts has been lost over time.

The second anniversary marks 90 years since the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, the culmination of a gang war between two of the country’s most notorious mobsters, Bugs Moran and Al Capone. Seven of Moran’s henchmen were gunned down in Chicago, and Capone’s henchmen were believed to be responsible. The pictures of bullet-riddled bodies on Feb 14, 1929, outraged the public, but no significant action was taken until 1932. Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected president that year, pursued a war on crime that included the first federal gun control law in American history. His National Firearms Act of 1934 was aimed at keeping machine guns and short-barrel firearms, including sawed-off shotguns, out of private hands.

The New York Times observes that the story of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre shows how public outrage can create meaningful reform when the political and economic costs of inaction outweigh the inertia of preserving the status quo.

The third marks the first anniversary of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where a 19-year-old former student, Nikolas Cruz, is accused of going on a rampage with a semiautomatic AR-15-style assault rifle on Feb 14, 2018. Seventeen students and teachers died in the attack.

Like the Tommy gun, the weapons used in the Florida shooting – and an even more deadly shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut in 2012 – were military-style assault weapons.

#22527 Published: 02/23/2018

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