My Maine View : Talking About Guns Still and Always

Would you like to start an argument? Insert the subject of guns into any gathering of three or more people. You can pick a subject, gun violence, gun control, gun nuts on the right, those that hate everything about guns on the left. Perhaps no subject in America can bring about such instantaneous passion in those discussing it.

The problem is that on this issue and many others people on both sides of the fence can no longer see any logic to the other side’s argument. It is easy for those on the left to say that background checks and a system of registration seems sensible when we register our cars and other much less dangerous objects. It is just as obvious, however, to those on the right to say that any registration of guns is just a first step to confiscation of all citizen owned weapons.

Before we talk about the valid concerns of both sides lets talk about some of the players, none of whom do themselves proud on this issue. First you have the NRA, a group that has gone from being, when I was a kid, the group that spoke about responsible gun ownership to being against any and all restrictions including those that limit felons from gaining a weapon. This despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of NRA members support some basic form of background checks and other lesser measures.

Not to be outdone you have Congressional members on both sides of the coin who express great remorse over the terrible events that we see all too often on the news such as Sandy Hook but yet are so indebted or afraid of the gun lobby that they do not stand up to them. Democrats like Harry Reid who do not have the courage to use the majority in the Senate to bring forth these bills in a timely fashion should be ashamed.

I went to breakfast with a good friend of mine last weekend. We do not agree on this issue, his distrust of the governments ability to do anything correctly limits his ability to believe in any of the ideas being put forth. He tells me, and he is correct, that if one of those teachers had been armed in Connecticut that fewer children would have been harmed. My wife is a teacher and a wonderful one at that, I suspect however, that handling a firearm is not something we want her to be doing. Nor does she want to.

In Maine we have people going into crisis mode over the possibility of concealed weapons permit holders names being revealed. The fact is that any gun issue will right away bring both sides to DEFCOM 1

Soon we are told their will be a bill to force all gun purchasers to go through a background check. The current system which features a gaping hole for gun shows is worse than none at all, it gives a false sense of doing something. We are told that restrictions on weapons and bullet magazines will be featured as amendments. Yet much of this is posturing, Democrats want to take advantage of the ninety percent of Americans in favor of background checks, and force NRA beholden Republicans to vote against it. It could make one cynical if they allowed it to.

What are the answers? I sure as hell do not know. For guidance though I will turn to that noted liberal Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. In the wake of the tragedy of Sandy Hook not a few Conservatives have come out in favor of some what they call ” moderate gun laws.” Joe Scarborough has those on the right disavowing him on a regular basis since he himself has taken up the cause. Mr. O’Reilly has been making consistent remarks about what he would do.

1. He would federalize all gun crimes. If you commit a crime, any crime, with a gun in hand you will be prosecuted federally and face a mandatory jail sentence. He suggests ten years.

2. Bill is in favor of background checks, thereby closing the gun show loophole. His view is that if just one or two folks are kept from getting a gun they otherwise would not have had access to then this is an acceptable sacrifice for gun owners to make. O’Reilly also speaks in favor of gun registration.

3. Lastly the host advises that limitations on certain kind of guns will not accomplish the goals and will only create a feel good bill.

I think for the most part O’Reilly is on the right track. There are hundreds of millions of guns in this country. Bushmaster is the weapon of choice for folks charmed by the allure of a gun. It is sexy. If you outlaw them there are enough in circulation. Would I ban these weapons? Yes I would. Still in terms of these awful school shootings and other events such as the movie theater shooting in Colorado last summer if someone does not care if they live or die in the committing of a crime your ability to stop it is minimal. Magazine restrictions I think are a much more viable choice. It seems safe to say that if a nut has to stop and reload that the chances of his killing less people are real. Still, in almost all of these mass shootings we hear that the murderer has brought multiple weapons. There are no easy answers.

The real avenue that can make a difference is in background checks and registration. For those that say registration is a first step to confiscation I do not have an answer. In Washington they are debating the use of drones both in foreign countries and here in America. If the government can launch a drone at your house from 1000 miles away and take you out then if they want your guns they will come get them. I cannot live in fear of my government, any speech featuring Second Amendment remedies to a problem is reckless whoever speaks them. Registration of guns would mean that if you sold a gun you would have to go through a process where the purchaser would have to pass a background check and then register the gun. Otherwise you have created another way for people to get guns without a background check. By registering the gun you make an original owner responsible for a gun that he sold illegally.  Again if it is believed that we can keep guns out of the hands of crazies, even just a few, this seems like something most Americans can, and apparently outside of Washington, do agree on.

As long as we have the level of freedom we do in this country there is always going to be a balance between total freedom and what is right for society. It is not just the gun lobby and those on the right that are wrong on this issue. Those on the left who want to restrict the Second Amendment but think any infringement on their perceived definition of the First Amendment, specifically looking at video game and movie violence, would be breaking a sacrosanct ethic are the worst kind of hypocrites. Being holier than thou is why those on the right often trust the left so little.

At some point reasonable people have to a agree on something. It seems to me that both background checks and registration and looking at the saturation of our popular culture with violence is a good place to start.