Half-cocked about guns
Common sense must prevail over hysteria in the firearms debate
Abroken heart can be slow to heal, and the heart of a parent who has lost a child never will. The bereaved families of shooting victims deserve to assuage their grief in any way they can, and to demonstrate that their beloved did not die in vain. But it’s important that sorrow not make things worse. Some of the lawmaking and litigation growing out of the Orlando massacre and other crimes threatens to do that.
In the wake of the massacre at the nightclub Pulse, the urge to do something, anything, about illicit guns has stalled in the usual partisan disagreement in the U.S. Senate. Democrats backed a measure from Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut to expand background checks on gun buyers, and one from Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California that would bar anyone on the terrorist watch list from buying a gun. Such a prohibition sounds more innocent than it is. It’s easy to get on a government watch list. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy once was put on a no-fly list by a bureaucrat’s blunder and his staff, one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill, required weeks of work to get his name liberated. Due process matters.
Republicans supported a bill from Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to give police 72 hours to veto a gun purchase or show cause in court why the restriction should be permanent. A bill from Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa would strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Without bipartisan support, each party’s legislation was doomed.
Families of the victims of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., tout their lawsuit against the maker of the weapon that was used to kill 20 children and six adults in Newtown. “Because our country cannot come together on the issues of assault rifles, these mass shootings will continue to happen,” says Matthew Soto, the brother of murdered teacher Victoria Soto. “Our actions are meant to bring about change.” Change for the better is always good, but alas, the change the lawsuit would bring would further restrict the rights of the law-abiding, but not make anyone safer.
Judge Barbara Bellis heard competing arguments on why Remington Arms, parent of the company that manufactured the rifle Adam Lanza fired at Sandy Hook Elementary School, should be held responsible for his actions, as well as arguments about why the suit should be dismissed. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed in 2005 shields the firearms industry from lawsuits holding them liable for the actions of buyers except in cases of manufacturer or dealer negligence.
Hillary Clinton has made repeal of the shield a centerpiece of her campaign, and promises to “repeal the gun industry’s unique immunity protection.” There’s nothing unique about holding a manufacturer blameless for the misuse of its product. The FBI calculates that 8,124 persons were killed with a gun in 2014, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculates that 32,675 persons died in automobiles. If General Motors or Ford were found liable for crashes resulting from the misuse of their vehicles, they would both have been in bankruptcy court long ago.
The National Rifle Association rightly calls anti-gun activism “political theater.” Says Chris Cox of the NRA: “We all agree that terrorists should not be allowed to purchase or possess firearms. We should all agree that law-abiding Americans who are wrongly put on a secret government list should not be denied their constitutional right to due process.” Common sense concurs.
In their haste to relieve grief and sorrow, it’s important that Americans not rush out halfcocked, leaving evildoers with freedom to kill the defenseless.