Archived Opinion

Finding middle ground is a must

Finding middle ground is a must

Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.

— Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the United Kingdom

“Let me put a face on this for you.”

So uttered Natalie Henry Howell in a gut-wrenching presentation to Haywood County Commissioners and a roomful of Second Amendment Sanctuary supporters on Tuesday night, Jan. 21. 

Natalie, her husband Thomas, their three remaining children and so many other family members and friends are dealing with the aftermath of senseless gun violence. She’s the mom of Riley Howell, the Haywood County youth whose heroic tackling of a gunman last April 30 on the campus of UNC Charlotte cost him his life while likely saving many others. 

Howell was shot eight times by a young man wielding a 9 mm pistol with an extended magazine. The 13th shot from his gun was the first to strike Riley.

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Howell courageously questioned the need for extended magazines (which are illegal in several states) and argued for stricter background checks for gun purchases.

“The shooter who killed my son should never have owned a gun,” she said, barely holding her emotions in check.

The bandwagon for Second Amendment sanctuaries is filling up fast, but reasonable gun control measures shouldn’t get run over in the rush. There is room for both in the country I proudly call home.

When I say there is room for both — gun rights and gun control legislation — I’m telling the truth. And people like Natalie and Thomas Howell, people who have suffered more than they should have due to random gun violence, feel the same way. And in poll after poll, it seems a substantial majority of Americans also feel the same. 

I understand the symbolism of the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement. Hell, if there was a similar movement for the First Amendment I would likely be one of the torchbearers. But all Americans would do well to remember that asking elected leaders in this country to support the Constitution — which includes the Second Amendment — is like asking someone to support honesty or motherhood: there is only one right answer. 

Among the other speakers at the hearing in Haywood County last week was Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher. Whether Haywood commissioners pass a Second Amendment Sanctuary resolution or not, Christopher reminded everyone that his office — by law — is committed to enforcing the laws of the state of North Carolina and the United States. In effect, he’s saying a local resolution will not change his enforcement of existing laws or new laws that may be passed at the state or federal level. 

So the question becomes whether lawmakers should be in the habit of passing symbolic yet, ultimately, meaningless resolutions? Perhaps these pre-emptive measures will become commonplace, but this is certainly new territory for elected officials. 

The truth is that there is middle ground on this issue and others, despite what sometimes seems an impossible impasse. And we can’t stop searching for that compromise if we ever want to solve the large issues facing this country.

(Scott McLeod is the publisher and editor of The Smoky Mountain News. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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