We were starting to feel optimistic about reasonable regulation of guns after a Washington Post report this week that the commission on gun violence overseen by Vice President Joe Biden following the Newtown, Conn., massacre was not just going to go after the low-hanging fruit, but would do a serious job of imposing much-needed regulations.
For example, the group is considering not just an assault-weapons ban, but also universal background checks for firearm buyers, a national database to track the movement and sale of weapons, and strengthened mental-health checks. Biden has been meeting with a broad base of groups, including the NRA. Perhaps the fractious civil war over guns that has hampered progress had finally abated, though it took the death of 20 children.
But then ...
Then we got word that the numbskull response by the NRA to fight gun violence by installing armed guards in every school in the country has been topped by something even more outrageous: a coalition of conservative groups has proclaimed Jan. 19 "Gun Appreciation Day."
That appalling and heartless "celebration" falls just five weeks after 20 sets of parents in Connecticut lost their children to gunfire. The Second Amendment Foundation and others are calling on people to show up at gun stores and gun ranges - presumably with the objects of their appreciation - to protest what they call the Obama administration's assault on gun rights.
We wish we were making this up, but even we don't have a twisted enough imagination to conjure such an outrage.
What is it with these gun fetishists? In the most armed country in the world - with 90 guns for every 100 people - a lobbying group that convinced gun owners they have divine rights, and where civic and political leaders are so intimidated by the NRA that something as simple as an ban on the types of weapons that can massacre a classroom full of children in minutes requires a fight, we again fail to see how rational regulation equals "an assault on rights."
Very few people are saying "repeal the Second Amendment." In fact, one commentator did such a thing, back in 2007 following the mass murder at Virginia Tech. Walter Shapiro argued: "Looking at the Bill of Rights with more than two centuries' hindsight, it is simply irrational that firearms have a protected position on par with freedom of speech and religion. Were Americans - liberal or conservative . . . writing a Constitution completely from scratch today, they probably would agree that something akin to 'freedom to drive' was far more important than the 'right to bear arms.'"
We urge Biden and the Obama administration to stand firm on the strong controls that they are discussing. Included in that must also be a recognition that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which has been without a permanent leader for six years, must be strengthened.
Is your worst-case scenario that the government is going to take your guns away? Consider parents who are living with a far-worse scenario: that a gun has taken their child away.