Gun-pho­bics tar­get tragedy

Sec­ond Amend­ment op­po­nents ig­nore the rea­son bul­lets fly

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Chris Cox

Hours af­ter two Vir­ginia jour­nal­ists were mur­dered while con­duct­ing a live in­ter­view last month, Vir­ginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe went on the ra­dio and de­manded what he called “com­mon-sense gun leg­is­la­tion.” The iden­tity of the al­leged killer was still un­known. The mo­tive was still un­known. The type of gun and the killer’s method of ac­quir­ing it was still un­known — it would take more than a day for that in­for­ma­tion to come out.

Mr. McAuliffe wasn’t alone. The Obama White House and Hil­lary Clin­ton weighed in the same day with sim­i­lar calls for gun con­trol, also be­fore learn­ing of the facts in­volved.

It was dif­fi­cult for all of us to watch the news that day. It was emo­tional, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a sin­gle per­son who wasn’t touched by the tragedy. Un­for­tu­nately, Mr. McAuliffe, Mrs. Clin­ton and Mr. Obama chose to ex­ploit a heart-wrench­ing sit­u­a­tion to push their po­lit­i­cal agenda — and even worse, they did so be­fore know­ing all the facts. Also un­for­tu­nately, the na­tional media re­fused to call them on it be­cause that agenda fits their shared gun con­trol nar­ra­tive.

The de­ranged in­di­vid­ual who com­mit­ted this heinous act bought his gun legally, months be­fore he used it, through a fed­er­ally li­censed dealer. He passed Pres­i­dent Obama’s fed­eral back­ground check and Mr. McAuliffe’s state back­ground check. He did not have a crim­i­nal record nor had he been ad­ju­di­cated men­tally ill or been com­mit­ted to a men­tal in­sti­tu­tion, ei­ther vol­un­tar­ily or in­vol­un­tar­ily, in-pa­tient or out­pa­tient. The fact is no piece of leg­is­la­tion pushed by gun con­trol ad­vo­cates would have stopped him from com­mit­ting this bru­tal crime.

Mr. McAuliffe knows this, as does Mrs. Clin­ton. The White House even ad­mit­ted — later — that gun con­trol leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing so-called “uni­ver­sal” back­ground checks, would not have stopped this. But to them, that’s be­side the point. They will use any tragedy as an ex­cuse to push their agenda re­gard­less of the facts in­volved. They’re not in­ter­ested in solv­ing prob­lems. This is pol­i­tics, pure and sim­ple. What’s most egre­gious about it is by ex­ploit­ing tragedy to push gun con­trol, they de­flected the con­ver­sa­tion away from real so­lu­tions that would solve our na­tion’s press­ing prob­lems — like fix­ing our bro­ken men­tal health sys­tem.

And it’s not just politi­cians who use this craven strat­egy. Anti-gun groups, such as Michael Bloomberg’s Every­town for Gun Safety, use it to ad­vance their anti-gun agenda and even raise money. Im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing a tragedy, they push emo­tional ap­peals to pro­mote their cause and de­clare, “enough is enough.” Un­for­tu­nately, they of­fer no real so­lu­tions to the prob­lems of vi­o­lence in our com­mu­ni­ties — just the same rhetoric, de­void of com­mon sense, logic or even the small­est con­nec­tion to re­al­ity. In the case of ex­panded back­ground checks, why would we ex­pand some­thing that is not work­ing in the first place?

The list of mass shoot­ers who passed back­ground checks in­clude the most re­cent tragedies in Roanoke, Lafayette, Chat­tanooga and Charleston. Although we’ve spent more than a bil­lion dol­lars on the back­ground check sys­tem over the past two decades, it’s not a panacea for our bro­ken men­tal health sys­tem. What Amer­ica needs is so­lu­tions to vi­o­lence, not more po­lit­i­cal rhetoric. Ex­pand­ing back­ground checks is not the an­swer.

Most peo­ple rightly be­lieve that it’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate to use a tragedy to push a po­lit­i­cal agenda mo­ments af­ter a tragedy oc­curs. But that doesn’t ever seem to stop, or even slow down, pro­po­nents of gun con­trol. As a mat­ter of fact, that ex­act strat­egy was laid out in their 2012 guide “Pre­vent­ing ‘Gun Vi­o­lence’ Through Ef­fec­tive Mes­sag­ing.”

In that guide, anti-gun ad­vo­cates are di­rected to im­me­di­ately hit tele­vi­sion, twit­ter, face­book and other so­cial media out­lets with emo­tional pleas for more gun con­trol just as soon as tragedy strikes. Read­ers are urged not to wait for the facts to emerge, but in­stead, to push for po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage while emo­tions run high.

For decades, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion has been call­ing for mean­ing­ful men­tal health re­form, so those suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­ness who are found to be a dan­ger to them­selves or oth­ers will not have le­gal ac­cess to firearms. In re­cent months, we have sup­ported the leg­isla­tive ef­forts of Sen. John Cornyn that would do just that.

If anti-gun politi­cians were re­ally in­ter­ested in solv­ing prob­lems in­stead of us­ing tragedy to push a po­lit­i­cal agenda, they would have to work to ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing prob­lem. Once again, un­for­tu­nately, they couldn’t help them­selves. Chris Cox is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion’s In­sti­tute for Leg­isla­tive Ac­tion.


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