Monday, April 22, 2013


The debate over the proposed changes in the gun laws raise questions that are serious; the problem is the answers may not be. First, the Second Amendment is pretty obvious; we do not tinker with other Amendments. Second, the seriousness of atrocities do not logically mean the means of the atrocity should be banned. Third, the weaknesses of the private gun sales are real but minor. Most guns sold at shows are sold with background checks. Where those background checks are not done are those personal and private sales to friends, family and neighbors. And the Internet.

Where do the objections come from? First, from fear of the government. Many people fear the government is collecting information on gun purchases not to screen potential owners but to collect a data base for eventual confiscation. Paranoia? Maybe, but these elitists are not the most honorable or honest of men. Secondly, the basic problem of most violent events in the nation: How are lunatics to be managed? In the background check regarding mental health questions, the burden has been on the applicant. "Have you ever been committed?" "Are you on psychotropic medications?" Under this proposed law, every one's medical records would be available to inspection. And subject to some judgment. Is a guy hospitalized in his early twenties for depression and symptom free for ten years a risk? Is someone on low-dose Zoloft a risk? What about a DUI? What about a guy who tests badly on IQ tests? Will freedom of speech face similar evaluation? When did our concept of basic human rights become subject to reassessment, anyway? And if they are, who gets to do the assessing?

This  is a mess, seen by critics as a prescription for failure and, worse, insincere. (For example, what was Obama's plan here? He expected this to be stopped in the House; what did it matter that it was stopped in the Senate by Democrats--unless the plan all along was to tar the Republicans with callousness. And why did the Democrats not allow debate?) It does not mean the problems are not legitimate and serious, it just suggests the leaders may not be up to the challenge. The appearance of one of the Newtown mothers as the speaker at the weekly Presidential Address confirms it: Posturing is a lot easier than problem-solving.

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