, Newburyport, MA

January 22, 2013

'Conversation' on guns was over before it started

Newburyport Daily News

---- — In the wake of the terrible massacre of innocent children in Newtown, Conn., we were told we needed to have a national conversation on guns.

There has been little useful conversation. While there has been some positive discussion of strengthening background checks, others have resorted to demonizing everyone who owns a gun.

New York provides the earliest examples of where this style of “conversation” is heading.

In the suburbs north of New York City, a day or so after Christmas the Journal News newspaper took it upon itself to publish an interactive map revealing the names and addresses of gun permit holders in its coverage area. These people had committed no crimes. They had merely endured the arduous process of licensing themselves to be legal owners of firearms.

Journal News executives justified this egregious abuse of their First Amendment rights by claiming that such information is a matter of public record. Indeed, it was at the time the story was published. But publishing the information served no purpose other than to advance the newspaper’s anti-gun agenda through the public shaming of those who had exercised their constitutional rights. The publication was a shameful abrogation of a newspaper’s responsibility to its readers.

Already, two homes included on the list have been burglarized and the homeowners’ guns taken or targeted. There will surely be more to follow.

Last week, leaders of the New York State Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo worked behind the scenes to broker a deal to toughen the state’s already restrictive gun laws. Among its many provisions, the bill cuts the magazine size limit from 10 to seven rounds and expands the definition of what makes a gun an “assault weapon.”

There was no “conversation” on these sweeping limitations on the rights of gun owners. They were rushed through the Assembly and immediately signed by Cuomo.

That urgency is the hallmark of the current gun-control push. Advocates want new restrictions passed before the emotions provoked by the Newtown massacre fade. They don’t want a reasoned discussion of what new gun measures might be helpful in reducing crime. They want hastily written, poorly thought-out restrictions passed in a climate of panic and fear.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick wants to close “loopholes” in what is already one of the nation’s most restrictive gun laws, and at the time of its passage in 1998, was one of the most poorly written gun laws in the nation. Indeed, the law was so badly written that Minutemen who fire salutes with muskets at New England Patriots games, and reenactors who fire blanks in parades or at Patriots Day celebrations, all faced potential criminal penalties.

Patrick’s bill would limit gun purchases to one per month and limit access to “high-powered” ammunition. A proposed competing bill from Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, would require gun owners to buy liability insurance and grant regulators access to all their mental health records.

None of these measures would have stopped Adam Lanza from going on his murderous rampage in Newtown. He owned none of the guns he used.

Nor would the restoration of the assault weapons ban advocated by President Obama have stopped him. The ban didn’t prevent the Columbine massacre in 1999. Why does anyone believe it would work now?

There is no desire on the part of gun-control advocates to have any sort of conversation at all. They merely want to harangue law-abiding citizens who disagree with them with a lecture on how evil and immoral they are. And when the lecture is over, the punishment will begin.

Gun rights and gun ownership are some of the most complicated, emotional and deep-rooted issues in American culture. Rushing through ill-thought-out laws will only cause more problems.