Editor's Note: Last week The Journal offered opinion space for those interested in commenting on the current state of the nation's gun laws. Here's one repsonse we have received. Perry Green also has a letter to the editor on the subject elsewhere in this week's opinion section.
At this stage in the discussions about gun laws there is almost nothing new to be added. The questions that make up he arguments regarding the ownership and acquisition of guns in the U.S. have not changed for decades. What is different lately is that the discussions have become hardened along cultural and emotional lines. The statement, " .hunters, or recreational users of non-military firearms should have nothing to fear" may have been true at one point, However, this is no longer true. Beginning with the Brady Bill campaign of the 1980s there has been an ever increasing call to ban all handguns from private ownership. This idea has morphed into a wish among many people, i.e. the well-funded Bloomberg initiative, to severely limit access to all firearms..
The "pro" and "anti' sides in the gun debates are not listening to each other at all. If they were, the "pro" side would win the day hands down. There are already hundreds, if not thousands, of laws on the books that are not being enforced. Automatic weapons and military arms have been banned from private ownership since 1934 without controversy. Almost all gun owners, including most N.R.A. members, indicate in polls that they have no objection to the background checks already on the books that are intended to prevent felons and other deviants from buying guns. Paradoxically, the states and cities with the most restrictive gun laws have the highest number of criminal uses of guns.
The legal gun owning population feels strongly, and accurately, that they (we) are being blamed for someone else's crimes. Leave out for now the grim numbers coming from Chicago and Baltimore. These two cities have so far in 2016 had over 400 murders----way more than the number killed in all of the mass shootings combined. Most of the urban murders were committed with illegally obtained weapons. So far, all of the mass shooters have obtained their weapons legally in spite of the laws aimed at screening them out. The most numerous mass killings have been committed in the name of radical Islamic terrorism. The Orlando shooter selected a gay gathering place apparently because it was a 'soft' target and also because Sharia law condones the killing of gay people. Isis relentlessly kills gays, and several Islamic nations have laws that prescribe the death penalty for homosexual activity. Why then are legal gun owners suddenly the villains to be blamed for the crimes of religious fanatics swearing allegiance to an international terrorist organization? This is not 'guilt by association' this is just plain nonsense!
Candidate Obama said in April of 2008 that, "people in small towns get bitter, they cling to their guns and religion .to explain their frustrations. Candidate Clinton responded two days later and called Obama's comments a "demeaning attack .about people in small towns. His remarks are elitist and out of touch." Herein lies much of the root of the current impasse over our gun discussions. The anti-crowd, along with many doctrinaire liberals, agree with candidate Obama that if you don't agree with them, you are bitter and have retreated from their world and don't deserve to be heard.
The non-terrorist mass shootings, i.e. Sandy Hook Elementary, led at the time to a lot of conversation about mental health issues and the need for identification and treatment of potential perpetrators before they ripened into actual doers. These discussions all ended up in the "forgotten" file because identifying mental health issues is not a simplistic solution, nor is it inexpensive. To do this effectively would require a new, expensive, expansion of the health system. It is easier, and more fun, to agitate for a 'one size fits all' solution to our "gun" problem by blaming the gun itself and regarding those who see the matter as a "people" problem as being bitter and out of touch.
Weiland Ross lives in Sunderland.