Hair-trigger reaction

Rush to 'do something' on guns is stifling reasonable debate

The sane reaction to the Sandy Hook shooting might have been to look at the country’s mental illness infrastructure.

The shooter in the case was clearly sick, and mental illness is the common denominator among these mass shootings, after all, from Newtown to Tucson to Aurora to Virginia Tech and beyond.

Instead, look at what we’re doing.

The White House and many in Congress have targeted legal gun owners and guns; at least one lawmaker in Iowa has openly called for confiscation of guns from law-abiding citizens; and several media outlets have even run maps showing the homes, addresses and names of legal gun permit holders in New York.

That latter move of publicly identifying legal gun owners, by the Journal-News of Westchester County and by Gawker.com, is particularly despicable. It puts a target on the back of law-abiding gun owners, while criminals with guns are excused from the discussion.

It’s possible some of the legal gun owners may have been put in danger by the exposure – from burglars intent on stealing guns or from past abusers who may not have known their victims’ current place of residence.

But in the main, the decision to publish the identities of legal gun owners is a reprehensible attempt to scapegoat them and subject them to public ridicule in the wake of a tragedy many miles away that they had nothing to do with.

In short, law-abiding gun owners across this country are being slandered.

And to what end? Even if you could confiscate the guns that the government knows about – which we would hope the Second Amendment still prohibits – that would merely disarm the law-abiding population.

We understand the knee-jerk sentiment in the wake of Sandy Hook to “do something.” But in truth, there is no law that would prevent a law breaker from breaking a law. And there are plenty of laws already on the books.

As ominous as any of this is, perhaps more frightening is the prospect that an American president would consider unilateral action, without the assent of Congress, to rewrite the nation’s gun laws through executive order – which Vice President Joe Biden has said may happen.

Having knifed into the Second Amendment thusly, what other rights would an unfettered president cut into?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the anti-gun hysteria has inspired Americans to flock to the Second Amendment. Gun sales and permit applications have surged across America.

“In December,” reported The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Gwinnett’s weapons carry applications doubled from the previous December, rising to 1,082. Cobb County saw an 89 percent hike to 1,212 last month.”

In Augusta, a recent spot check of Richmond County government by The Chronicle revealed 40 gun permit applications in a single day; they had been running at about 10 to 15 a day.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association reports a tsunami of 100,000 new members.

It makes absolutely no sense to come after law-abiding gun owners. They’re not the problem.

The current hysteria ignores the fact that violence and gun violence have actually dropped by half since the 1990s – and that the areas with the strictest gun laws often have the most gun violence, probably a reflection of the fact that the government is capable of disarming only those residents who follow laws.

Studies show mass killings peaked in 1929. And as for banning “assault” weapons, they are difficult to define – and a study of the country’s former assault weapons ban concludes the effect of a reinstatement of it is “likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement. (Assault weapons) were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.”

Sane and law-abiding Americans, who are in no way responsible for Sandy Hook, are as serious about the Second Amendment as most of us are about the First Amendment and every other constitutional protection against the heavy hand of government.

We said in the wake of Sandy Hook that we’d welcome a reasonable debate on guns.

So far, there’s no sign of one.

More

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 22:13

Rick McKee Editorial cartoon

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 22:15

Where’s the balance?