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The gun debate

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few days about the arguments on both sides of the gun issue.

Some strike me as false, like the comparison of guns to things that may be dangerous, like airplanes, or cars. Airplanes and cars weren’t designed to kill, and airplanes and cars are heavily regulated to make them safer.

Other arguments strike me as weak, like the inconvenience of a background check or a waiting period or the fear of an ownership registry.

As things stand now, the regulations for buying cold medicine are stricter than for buying a gun. If you’ve had a cold or allergies in the past seven years, you know you have to show the pharmacist a photo ID to buy a decongestant. The pharmacy has to keep a record of your purchase for two years.

If you buy a gun from a licensed gun dealer, the federal record must be destroyed within 24 hours. If you buy a gun at a gun show, there’s no record. If you just shop for a gun online, that record lives forever. Google, or whatever search engine you use, doesn’t forget.

I know for some the fear of a national gun ownership registry is genuine. All I can do is, again, point out that it would be impossible to use one to seize anyone’s guns. The right to keep and bear arms is an individual constitutional right, affirmed by the Supreme Court just five years ago. I can’t begin to imagine how far our country would have to stray from the respect for the rule of law that is the bedrock of our democracy for any government official to think he had a snowball’s chance in hell of taking anyone’s guns.

On the other side, some gun control advocates thought they had a “gotcha” moment when 14-year-old Congressional testimony resurfaced. After Columbine, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre testified before the House Judiciary Committee and said he was in favor of “instant checks at gun shows just like at gun stores and pawn shops.”

LaPierre was immediately painted as a hypocrite. In fact, he was a brilliant tactician.

For me, the bottom line is that both sides have to give themselves a reality check. Many gun rights advocates have to acknowledge that the Supreme Court also affirmed the government’s power to regulate firearms and acknowledge that the vast majority of Americans want tougher regulations to keep guns out of the hands of maniacs.

The argument that criminals and maniacs don’t obey the law doesn’t hold water. The logical conclusion to that argument is that all laws are meaningless.

Many gun control advocates have to forcefully testify to their support of the rule of law, and the validity of the Second Amendment. I also sometimes detect a hint of elitism on the side of the control advocates. Looking down on someone leaves you no path to common ground.

Both sides have to acknowledge that there is no perfect solution but there has to be something that’s better than what we have now.