The gun debate rages on. Except that instead of a debate, which suggests reasoned discourse, what is actually taking place is a series of threats, doomsday predictions and spittle-emitting rants.
Guns were not my topic of choice, today. I’ve covered them like a cheap suit lately. But the atmosphere is thick with insane posturing … and it worries me.
Really, folks, we’ve got to let a little air out of the outrage and infuse a little common sense into the discussion.
As I have repeatedly pointed out (to the point of tedium, frankly) I am now a gun owner. But, I was a Second Amendment supporter before that. If there is a line forming to protest against those who would eradicate the Second Amendment, point it out. I’ll advance to the rear. My point is that the problem of gun violence is not (or should not be) a political one. Liberal or conservative — it doesn’t matter.
The outpouring of sentiment to end the carnage of mass shootings is genuine. Gun regulation is but one component.
And yet the reaction by gun advocates and the NRA has been violently hyperbolic.
Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” pointed out this week that when the Second Amendment became law, the most advanced form of firearm available was a single-shot musket. It was considered the final word in firearms at the time. None of the founding fathers was named Nostradamus. They had no way of predicting the startlingly emergent technology of armaments. Assault rifles were literally inconceivable to them.
Stewart also pointed out that when DWI reached epidemic proportions, we — as a society — took action. We didn’t ban cars, either.
What we did was pass ever tougher laws that cracked down on malfeasants. We lowered the legal blood alcohol limit. We jacked up fines and stiffened sentences. Law enforcement raised the bar by setting up checkpoints and increasing their presence and visibility. DWI morphed from something we had all winked at into a socially unacceptable ignominy. The result has been a substantial lowering of DWI rates, along with the incidence of death by impaired drivers. We didn’t eliminate the problem, mind you. But we banded together and used common sense methods to reduce it.
We can do as much with gun violence.
The new N.C. State General Assembly is apparently poised to pass legislation requiring a prescription for any (currently) over-the-counter cold medications that contain Sudafed. The reason for this highly intrusive legislation is the staggering number of our fellow citizens who use cold medications to cook up lethal methamphetamine cocktails.
They’re behaving badly — and we pay. That’s just wrong, but we’ll do it. And we’ll do it because we — as a society — have a duty to prevent the (admittedly repugnant) meth-heads from spreading their lethal pastime to their own — and our own — children.
In order to become a gun owner I gladly availed myself of N.C. state law. It was purchased from a licensed dealer. I filled out an application for ownership, which was subsequently vetted by Pasquotank Sheriff Randy Cartwright’s office. The completion of my purchase hinged on a background check. Each sheriff has latitude, but it’s pretty standard that a felony conviction or prior diagnosis of severe mental impairment bars purchase.
That’s all well and good, but there are many perfectly legal ways to subvert this process. Internet purchases and gun shows are but two.
This should not be so. The vetting process through which I passed should be inviolable. We register all motor vehicles in this country, without exception – and in a truly national database. Why don’t we do the same with firearms? All rights — even constitutional ones — have boundaries. The First Amendment is not without boundaries. You cannot yell “fire” in a theatre. The Second Amendment has boundaries as well. There absolutely must, for purposes of public safety, be restrictions on firearms and explosives. There is no legitimate reason for anyone (who not a member of the armed services) to possess an assault rifle ... or a hand grenade ... or a rocket launcher.
Think about it: fireworks are more regulated than guns. Can you legally purchase even a single cherry bomb? No, you may not — and with good reason. They’re dangerous. But you may purchase an entire case of hollow point bullets if you wish. And they exist only to maim and kill.
This country has attacked other societal problems with success: public health, racial and gender inequality, poverty. We haven’t cured any of them, but we’ve made progress.
Perhaps we can’t cure the numbingly all-too-common bloodbaths that have lately come close to defining our national character.
We can make the attempt, though, can’t we?
Bud Wright is a Pasquotank County resident and published author.