Learn from Reagan to find middle ground on gun control

Photo by Anas Ahmed

Photo by Anas Ahmed

By Jessica Huseman

Gun control has always seemed like a pretty logical issue for me – and I grew up in a home that literally kept a shotgun propped up by the back door. Not for protection, no — I’m pretty sure if anyone broke into my house, my dad would just beat them to death (insert “my dad could beat up your dad” comment here). It was there in case some animal was running through the backyard that needed to be shot. Welcome to Texas.

But you know what my dad didn’t have propped up by the back door? An Uzi.

So, given this middle-ground upbringing, I find myself annoyed with both parties in terms of gun control. My grievances are as follows:

  1. Hey newscasters: You don’t know what an automatic weapon is. So just start saying “gun.” It will keep all of us sane. Also, where do you find these pro-gun people? Couldn’t get anyone less idiotic? They do exist, you know. You could choose to have a real debate on the issues instead of choosing the most cartoon-like person you can find to yell into the camera.
  2. Hey NRA: No, it’s not a good idea to put armed guards in front of schools. Do you know how much that would cost? Scaring the shit out of 6-year-old also isn’t OK.
  3. Hey Journal News: It’s totally unnecessary to publish the names and locations of all handgun owners in Westchester County. Not everyone who owns a handgun is a danger to society, and, yeah, that’s public information, but so are the names and addresses of people who have actually committed crimes with their guns. Go publish their names.
  4. Hey gun fanatics who give the rest of us a bad name: Are you honestly telling me you don’t think it’s dangerous for some random guy to own a military-style assault weapon? I mean, let’s be real. You can keep your hunting rifles and your properly licensed handguns that you keep unloaded and tucked away when not in use, but do you really need that M16 just because it’s fun?

It’s like no one from either camp looks in the mirror, or at least watches the news after they appear on television, and says to themselves, “I just sounded like a dumb-ass.” Because, really, that should be said a lot.

There is a middle ground, here. But left-wingers have to stop acting like all gun owners are nuts — they aren’t. And right-wingers have to stop pretending that the Second Amendment is absolute — it isn’t. The First Amendment does not protect all forms of free speech (obscenities aren’t protected and you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is not, in fact, a fire), so the right to bear arms shouldn’t be interpreted as absolute, either.

A quote:

“We are writing to urge your support for a ban on the domestic manufacture of military-style assault weapons. This is a matter of vital importance to the public safety. Although assault weapons account for less than 1 percent of the guns in circulation, they account for nearly 10 percent of the guns traced to crime.”

Who said that? Oh yeah. Ronald Reagan — the man who ardent conservatives frequently tout as the most amazing man ever to have graced this earth with his presence (aside from the J-man).

As he, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter wrote in their joint letter to the Boston Globe in support of the 1994 ban on assault weapons, it is true that banning these weapons will not stop all crime associated with them. But it will stop some of it. And isn’t that enough? Let’s be real: Most laws don’t stop every bit of the crime they are associated with, but they do go a long way. And that’s enough for most people.

Three years before the 1994 letter, Reagan wrote a personal letter to The New York Times titled “Why I’m for the Brady Bill.” In it, he advocated a “a national 7-day waiting period before a handgun purchaser could take delivery.” He added:

“This level of violence must be stopped. Sarah and Jim Brady are working hard to do that, and I say more power to them. If the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those [crimes] (and it could be a good deal greater), it would be well worth making it the law of the land.”

Unfortunately, the final version of the bill simply required an instant background check and no waiting period. Today in many states, you can walk in to a gun store and walk out with a handgun only a few minutes later. Many gun show sales are even exempt from the background check.

So, why the waiting period? Let me quote Mr. Reagan again:

“…since many handguns are acquired in the heat of passion (to settle a quarrel, for example) or at times of depression brought on by potential suicide, the Brady bill would provide a cooling-off period that would certainly have the effect of reducing the number of handgun deaths.

Critics claim that ‘waiting period’ legislation in the states that have it doesn’t work, that criminals just go to nearby states that lack such laws to buy their weapons. True enough, and all the more reason to have a Federal law that fills the gaps.”

Thank you, President Reagan.

I realize that this is a compound problem. Yes, we certainly need to deal with the mental healthcare situation in this country. Yes, we definitely need to ask ourselves if the level of gratuitous violence in the media is appropriate. And yes, we need to look at the real effectiveness of the laws we are passing — but we do need to pass gun control laws. We do.

As a responsible, mentally healthy, law-abiding citizen, I would, in fact, enjoy the ability to go into a gun store and purchase a gun if I so choose. I am not, however, offended by the notion that I might have to wait a few days to actually obtain it or that there might be a limit to the type of gun I can own. Because I am not in the military (and if I were, I guess they would just give me my weapons), and I don’t need that gun this very instant (If I did, I might need to, I don’t know, call the police).

It is time to go back to the era where we could work together on this type of legislation without resorting to insults, and a time where the NRA actually assisted in crafting legislation that restricted the purchase of guns (yes, that happened). Most of all — it is time for both parties to be rational. That is what is missing most from all of these discussions, and the absence of it will inevitably lead this effort to become too extreme or completely ineffective.

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Posted by on January 16, 2013. Filed under Interest. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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