Having a gun is a protected right, not a regulated privilege, but the media often seems to think otherwise. (Dave Workman)
In a discussion about last week’s tragic school shooting at Spokane County’s Freeman High School, Wednesday’s Vancouver Columbian editorial talks about “this nation’s obsession with guns.”
The editorial observed, “If the United States is to have much-needed discussions about mass shootings, it is important to talk about culture and the media and parenting and video games. But it is absurd to ignore the elephant in the room that is this nation’s obsession with guns.”
A look at some recent headlines suggests that the public may not be as “obsessed” about guns as the dominant media seems to be. Headlines in The Hill and Reuters focus on an apparent Trump administration decision to ease export rules on firearms.
Several days ago, the Washington Post ran an opinion piece ripping the National Rifle Association’s support of legislation that would ease restrictions on the possession of firearms suppressors (aka “silencers”) that led with this paragraph:
“The days are growing colder, and soon millions of American hunters will pursue a time-honored tradition. They will load their automatic weapons with armor-piercing bullets, strap on silencers, head off to the picnic grounds on nearby public lakes — and start shooting.”
Author Dana Milbank’s 41-word lead was apparently so inflammatory that it brought a detailed response from NRA’s Chris Cox, executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action. In his rebuttal – a courtesy the WaPo allegedly declined to extend to the NRA – that appeared in the Daily Caller, Cox characterized Milbanks’ article as “littered with misleading and incorrect terminology.” He also asserted that Milbanks’ “contempt for hunters, NRA members and gun owners in general is made clear through his condescending tone and misrepresentation of the facts.”
This all has to do with the proposed SHARE Act, which Cox explained thusly:
“The bill protects — and provides recourse — for law-abiding gun owners who are unfairly targeted by extreme anti-gun jurisdictions when traveling state-to-state, a protection that already exists under federal law. And it lifts the current ban on carrying self-defense firearms on millions of acres of federal land, while easing the regulations on suppressors so that hunters can protect against hearing loss while in the field.”
What is it about the Second Amendment that seems to push First Amendment professionals about a half-bubble off plumb? At times, it appears, when the Fourth Estate explores the subject of firearms reporters can’t see the forest for the trees.
The York Daily Record, a newspaper in Pennsylvania, on Wednesday published a lengthy, and in some spots poignant, piece about a killing that left a little boy without a father; a symptom of a much larger gang problem in the area. The newspaper noted that it had analyzed guns and homicides over the course three years – 2013 to 2016 – to discover that, “in at least 21 cases, one or more of the alleged or convicted assailants was already legally banned from possessing a gun at the time of the shooting death.”
Perhaps without realizing it, the story identified a problem that is a much larger “elephant in the room” than guns; a problem that the press seems reluctant to put in print: Gun control laws, at least as they are written, haven’t worked. In many, if not most cases – such as “universal background check” requirements that haven’t prevented a single violent crime – they have been abject failures.
While gun rights groups advocate for stiff penalties for gun-related crime and possession of firearms by felons, newspaper editorials frequently support more gun control laws that seem to affect only law-abiding citizens.
Editorials such as the one in Wednesday’s Columbian propose a “conversation” about guns. That conversation has been ongoing for many years with the two sides growing farther apart as it devolves into a debate about increasingly restrictive gun control proposals.
For a conversation to be productive, all sides need to recognize right up front that the possession and carrying of firearms is protected by both the state and federal constitutions. Having a gun is a constitutionally-delineated individual right, not a regulated government privilege.
The discussion cannot begin with, “I support the Second Amendment…but.”