Despite failure, time will come for gun legislation
The defeat of gun control legislation in the Senate wasn’t as much surprising as it was disappointing. This is one of those issues — like gay rights or even limits on tobacco advertising and use — that will eventually gain overwhelming support. Public opinion and a changing electorate will eventually win out. I’d bet the farm on it. Unfortunately, many more tragedies — some preventable — and a few more years will have to pass.
Sandy Hook is still fresh in our minds. In truth, the Senate legislation would likely not have stopped a mentally unstable son from murdering his mother and taking her guns into an elementary school. But even the utter senselessness of that massacre was not enough to convince politicians who feared voter amnesia and an election backlash.
The public overwhelmingly favors — by 90 percent in some polls, including NRA members — the types of restrictions contained in the failed Senate legislation: background checks for gun purchases and restrictions on the sale of high-capacity magazines. A similar measure has passed in Connecticut.
The centerpiece of the failed Senate votes was the Manchin-Toomey bill. Specifically, it would have required private sellers at gun shows and over the Internet to administer background checks through a licensed firearms dealer. That’s it. Seems almost laughable that we don’t have such a law on the books. And, as pointed out earlier, almost all Americans support the measure.
From my perspective, this is the most important gun control legislation needed. If we mandate background checks, and then enact laws that will imprison those who sell firearms illegally, we will get guns out of the hands of some criminals. Sure, the black market will still exist, but most criminals aren’t brain surgeons. If we make it more difficult, some will strike out in their attempt to get a gun.
The debate over how we might wisely regulate our Second Amendment rights has gotten derailed by the gun lobby. I’ve lived just about my entire life in the South and was raised in military communities. I hunted as a kid and was around guns on a regular basis until I left home for college. Both my brothers own guns, as did my father before he passed away. No one is trying to take away the rights of sportsmen to continue hunting and shooting or of homeowners from owning guns for protection against intruders. As long as you abide by our laws, you can own guns. You screw up, you should lose that right. Seems simple.
The right of Americans to own firearms, however, was not put in the Constitution so citizens could rise up against their own leaders, at least not as long as those leaders are obeying the laws of the land. Yes, the Second Amendment was a check against a tyrannical federal government. The reality, though, is two-fold: one, our government is not going to go totalitarian; and two, millions of automatic weapons are no defense against the military we have in place these days. It’s almost laughable to think otherwise.
That said, the principle enshrined in the Second Amendment is a vital part of our collective national psyche. I get that. Law-abiding citizens deserve to have their gun rights protected. However, in this age of domestic terrorism and crazed shooters popping innocent children in public places, keeping weapons away from criminals is more necessary now than ever.
And that’s why this failed attempt at modest regulations is disappointing at a very emotional level. But it’s time will come. A few more gut-wrenching shootings, a few more massacres of innocent children. I wish it weren’t so.