Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Letters to the Editor

January 21, 2013

Gun control: Time for talk, change

Recent columns and letters have commented on gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. On more than one occasion, the argument that gun ownership is necessary to safeguard one’s freedom has been presented. Mr. Smokey Shott wrote, “The founders, who had just put their lives on the line to gain independence, understood that Americans must be guaranteed the right to defend themselves with weapons equal to those that may be used against them.” I wonder where Mr. Shott plans to store his Predator drone and cruise missiles? The idea that American people are going to need assault weapons to overthrow the government is absurd, as it is no longer 1776, and there is no longer parity between weapons owned by civilians and those used by our military.

Even more significant is the fact that our government is generally benevolent, and when our rights are compromised we have a peaceful, safe means of instigating change and gaining recompense. We have safeguards in place that keep the government from attaining too much power, or violating our Constitutional rights. In regard to guns, for instance, the Supreme Court has ruled that individuals have a right to bear arms for lawful purposes, signaling that any type of universal federal ban is out of the question. There is really no need to discuss overthrowing a “tyrannical government” that has such safeguards in place, and is subject to the will of the electorate. Such discussion is rooted in fantasy and paranoia.

The courts have long held, however, that even our Constitutional rights are not absolute, and there may be reasonable restrictions on such rights. One may not shout “fire!” in a crowded theater, for instance, as it would cause undue danger to your fellow man. With that in mind, we as a country must look at gun ownership and gun laws and determine what restrictions are needed to safeguard the rights of our fellow man.

Unfortunately, most gun owners refuse to participate in a meaningful discussion about gun laws and gun violence. They refuse to acknowledge that most developed countries have far lower gun death rates than the United States (measured proportionately by population). They refuse to acknowledge that the vast majority of weapons used in mass shootings over the last 30 years in the U.S. were purchased legally (as reported by the Washington Post). Any attempt to discuss gun control is met with an even mix of hostility and absurdity (petitions to deport Piers Morgan). Recent attempts to discuss gun measures have been met by gun advocates with diversionary tactics, such as emphasizing mental health or security. Surely, those issues are of great importance, but they do not absolve us from the responsibility of reevaluating our gun laws.

It is time to talk about gun control in America, and it is time to make some necessary changes. It’s time for gun owners in this country to start acting like adults, and to sit down at the table and discuss what’s best for America. Reasonable concessions must be made by both sides to ensure a balance between the rights of gun owners and the rights of the public at large. We must do what we can, within the limits of the Constitution, to prevent another Sandy Hook or Aurora, lest we go down in history as a generation that soaked its hands in the blood of innocent people as a result of our selfish inaction.

John M. McCormick

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