Ebenezer Scrooge, in Charles Dickens memorable novella, uttered the equally memorable phrase "I'll retire to Bedlam" when he thought everyone he was talking to had gone nuts. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, I wonder if its time to do the same.
While NRA Exec. Director Wayne LaPierre gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference that would have left Bedlam inmates feeling quite sane by comparison, Democrats in Ohio wrote a bill that would, if passed, define innocuous, 22 rimfire rifles from the ninteen-sixties such as the Marlin Model 60 or Remington Nylon as terrifying "assault rifles". Indeed, if that is the case, we all need to retire to Bedlam.
On a more sane front, Garry Wills once penned that he thought we worshipped guns too much, comparing them to the Old Testament god Moloch. Here is his piece, written shortly after the Newtown Massacre.
Here in Bombtown, at least Stephanie Nakleh tried to be reasonable in suggesting that New Mexico should not relax its standards on concealed carry. Unfortunately, she was unaware that its not a problem. So here goes.
Stephanie Nakleh has long been concerned with lowering the level of gun
violence in New Mexico and for that we should thank her. However, when
she acknowledges our Senators for rejecting national concealed carry
reciprocity, she has missed some important information. Ms. Nakleh
states reciprocity would force "...New Mexico to accept the
concealed-carry standards of every other state—making it easy for
residents in neighboring states like Arizona, with very weak laws, to
carry hidden, loaded weapons in New Mexico...". As it happens, we
already accept Arizona's concealed carry license.
According to the New Mexico Dept. of Public Safety, New Mexico accepts
concealed carry licenses from the following states: Alaska, Arizona,
Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana,
Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North
Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee,
Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Basically, from half the
states in the union. So concealed carry reciprocity would not affect us
much. Further, existing reciprocity agreements have never been
documented to be a problem. So-called "concealed carry killers" are
rare, other than on anti-gun web sites, while most of our gun violence
perpetrators in New Mexico are home grown bad guys, sometimes felons in
possession, revolving door criminals, domestic abusers, or disaffected
Part of the reason the gun debate never gets anywhere is that both "gun
violence prevention" and "gun (owner's) rights" advocates are often not
fully engaged in learning the devils in the details, but rather, repeat
uncritically each side's political talking points. That was one reason
last year's background check bill never made it to the Governor's desk
as the bill's friends and lobbyists failed to convince key Democrats, in
a timely manner, that they should support a compromise bill. So a
useful bill died in committee. I still think progress can be made if we
could ever agree on two things. One, to stop moving the goalposts (a key
concern of gun owners) and two, to compromise with the other side. Both
sides have to recall the Rolling Stones song: "You can't always get
what you want, but if you try sometime, you find, you get what you
I'll throw one thing out. Gun rights come with gun responsibilities. It
has always worried me that military derived assault-style rifles
designed to control a battlefield, and which can easily be modified to
hold more rounds than I typically shoot in a month, are so easy to buy,
even for an 18 year old with emotional issues.
We know that in general, a person's brain development goes on into the
mid-twenties; most school shooters are not yet in their mid-twenties and
no two individuals are alike. Perhaps we need to look at some
statistics on who is misusing these guns and re-evaluate who can
purchase or possess these rifles and certain other arms, TBD, in an
unsupervised situation. I have a hard time thinking anyone will get
their wish and have these rifles nationally banned, even if New Mexico
tries to ban them (state bans have so far been upheld in Federal
appellate courts). More than ten million of these rifles are in private
hands; virtually all are held safely. So instead of a ban, should we
consider some permitting system that could screen out higher risk or
immature individuals while not penalizing the vast majority of owners
who are not dangerous? Those who own such weapons can be required to
ensure children and teens cannot easily access them unsupervised.
The interest balance of risk vs rights is the point of discussion and as
far as I am concerned, each side's moral absolutism is not helping us
get anywhere. "Guns and Bibles" indeed seem to be a cultural divide as
much as tangible objects. As David Brooks recently opined in the New
York Times, its long overdue for both gun rights and gun violence
prevention folks to sit down and respect each other. Only then can we
listen rather than just talk.