By John Krull
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – It doesn’t take much to get gun lovers going.
Not long after the mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., I wrote a column in which I said that, once again, the gun lobby was telling us that any discussion involving solutions to the tragedy of gun-related deaths in this country couldn’t involve guns. We could shred just about every other part of the Constitution as far as the National Rifle Association was concerned, but we couldn’t even discuss the gun lobby’s strange interpretation of the Second Amendment – more on that in a moment – or the possibility that the free and easy access we have to guns might contribute something to the problem.
The gun lovers reacted as they so often do, by screaming that I was trying to take their guns away. One of them – Indiana Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour – said that he would love to have a rational discussion about guns but then concluded by saying that I, not the number of people being killed, was the real problem.
That sounds rational.
Just so we’re clear here, I’m where a lot of Americans are. I don’t want to deny law-abiding citizens the right to own firearms, but I do want to make it harder for lawbreakers to get them. Most of all, I want to see fewer of my fellow citizens killed with guns.
And, unlike the gun lobby, I’m willing to acknowledge that this is a problem. We lose more Americans to gun-related violence in a few months than we lost in 10 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
I figure that the best way to deal with this tragedy is the way that people of good faith deal with most problems. We get together and we explore solutions.
But the NRA and the other pillars of the gun lobby refuse to come to the table to discuss solutions unless talk of guns is taken off the table.
Actually, it’s worse than that. If the gun lovers think guns are going to be part of the discussion, they do their damnedest to keep the rest of us from coming to the table, too.
And they do it while giving us lectures about preserving freedom and protecting constitutional principle.
They base this unyielding and unreasoning opposition on several premises.
They argue, for example, that the language in the Second Amendment tying the right to bear arms to militia service and being well-regulated doesn’t mean anything. In the process, they ignore the fact that the phrase “bear arms” itself is military language. The Founders no more would have used that term to describe possession of weapons for personal protection or hunting than they would have described a neighborhood stroll as a “forced march.”
Because history doesn’t support their interpretation of the amendment, the gun lovers often try to strip it of the language they find troublesome. The amendment reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The gun lovers say that the only part of that sentence that matters is the part that begins with “the right” and that the rest is just puffery.
That’s a bit like taking this sentence – “Logic, history and grammar aside, the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment makes perfect sense” – and claiming that it is an endorsement of their position.
The last premise is the most disturbing one. Every time I write that maybe, just maybe, we should talk about guns, gun lovers send me the results of an NRA-cooked survey that found that 70 percent of Americans consider the Second Amendment “a bulwark against tyranny.”
I say “cooked” because terms like “bulwark” and “tyranny” are designed to push respondents to a specific response. My guess is that if I asked the same question with similarly loaded and equally unfair language – “Do you think the Second Amendment gives you the right to shoot an American police officer or an American soldier if you happen to disagree with the policies of a legitimately elected government?” – much of that support would vanish.
Maybe there is no way to curb the number of gun-related deaths in this country. And, even if there is, maybe the solution doesn’t involve any gun control measures.
But we won’t know that unless and until we explore all of our options – unless we talk about every part of the problem.
And that’s the one thing the gun lobby wants to keep us from doing.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.