April 16, 2013

Kathleen Parker: There is no law that could stop another Newtown

Many of the proposed reforms make sense, but it's hard to see how they would make a difference.

The biggest obstacle to the Obama administration's push for tighter gun control may be its own best argument: Newtown.

This is because nothing proposed in the gun control debates would have prevented the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and everybody knows it. At best, tighter gun laws will make us feel better.

Let's review: The Newtown killer was a mentally disturbed young man living with his mother. She had legally purchased her arsenal and had even taught her son how to responsibly handle firearms.

What she did not do was: (1) deal appropriately with her son's mental illness; (2) safely contain her guns so that her son could not access them.

As much as anyone, I am eager to do whatever will make a difference. But I'm unconvinced that what is being proposed will provide the solution we seek.

Universal background checks are a perfectly good idea, except that they won't stop the burglar who recently cleaned out our house of all our legally purchased rifles and shotguns, including an antique belonging to my great-grandfather, who, as sheriff of Barnwell County, S.C., confiscated the gun from the triple murderer he tracked for three days and finally killed. (I want that gun back, please.)

Those guns are now in circulation among an element of society that has no intention of submitting to a background check or any other well-intentioned effort to ensure that only good guys have guns.

Should we insist that buyers at gun shows submit to a quick background check as they would at any gun store? Sure. Why not? Federally licensed vendors at gun shows already have to conduct background checks, but everyday people who sell among themselves at the shows do not. Few beyond the gun lobby object to this step, but even this wouldn't have prevented Newtown.

Meanwhile, what about my neighbor, Mike, who, theoretically, wants to buy a shotgun I no longer use? Is it really practical to insist that he submit to a background check? Gun control proponents would have Mike and me run down to Dick's Sporting Goods (or some other "portal") and run through a quick background check. We could do that. Or, I could just give Mike the gun and he could hand me a couple hundred dollars one of these days.

If a law isn't enforceable, is it a good law? Does it prevent Newtown for neighbors to run through a little ritual that creates yet another level of government oversight for no real practical purpose other than to create a gun registry, which, whether one thinks this is a reasonable idea, gun control advocates insist they don't want?

But we have to do something, don't we?

Banning assault weapons and large magazines is appealing. But what, exactly, is an assault weapon, anyway? Most think of assault weapons as machine guns, but many popular firearms, from ranch rifles to handguns, are, like the AR-15 used at Newtown, semi-automatic. This means that they fire only one round each time the trigger is pulled and the gun automatically reloads. Do we ban all semi-automatic weapons?

Limiting the size of magazines also seems like a common-sense solution. Then again, maybe a killer would simply carry several small magazines and swap them out as Eric Harris did at Columbine High School in 1999 and Seung-Hui Cho did at Virginia Tech in 2007.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)