Everyone loses when we let the extremes prevail in gun control debate
As much as my grandma’s flour tortillas and episodes of “The Brady Bunch,” guns were a part of my childhood. I grew up the son of a cop in the farmland of Central California, where I was surrounded by grapevines and gun racks but also — luckily for me — good ol’ common sense.
Now as a journalist who is following the farcical gun debate, I don’t run across much of the latter — not on either side of the great divide.
The White House recently unveiled a gun control and school safety plan that would arm “specially qualified” school personnel, strengthen background checks on gun buyers and — in perhaps its most significant and controversial component — allow judges to circumvent due process by issuing “extreme risk protection orders” so police can seize guns and ammunition from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.
What President Trump’s proposal did not do was follow through on what appeared to be his support for raising the minimum age for buying rifles from 18 to 21.
Making that change would have been an example of common sense. Of course, it would have also outraged the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA), which has been pressuring Trump to keep the age requirements where they are. The gun lobby was never the solution. And now it’s become part of the problem.
Meanwhile, Americans may be becoming immune to tragedy, loss and heartache. There is just so much of it.
On Feb. 14, Nikolas Cruz stepped onto the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The 19-year-old — who had a history of behavioral problems — killed 17 people with an AR-15, a military style semi-automatic, high-powered assault rifle that has become the weapon of choice for maniacs and mass murderers, and whose bullets come out with such velocity that they pulverize bones and obliterate organs.
On March 9, Albert Wong, a 36-year-old former Army rifleman, took three hostages at a veterans facility in Yountville that specialized in caring for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After a standoff with police that began with a gunfight and lasted nearly 10 hours, Wong wound up dead along with the hostages — Christine Loeber, Jennifer Golick and Jennifer Gonzales, who was pregnant.
Unfortunately, we’re likely to see this horror movie again, and again; until a country of gunslingers regains its sanity.
As with many controversial issues, the gun talk has been dominated by the extremes. No one wants to compromise, show restraint or settle for half a loaf. Both sides twist the truth, and overreact.
It’s rhetorical mud wrestling that is winner-take-all, which means the folks who are most likely to lose are those of us who reside in the sensible center.
On the Left, you have anti-gun zealots who would be perfectly comfortable confiscating weapons — or having people hand them in through some sort of voluntary buyback program.
They make the mistake of focusing too much on guns, and ignoring other factors such as mental health and parental supervision.
On the Right, you have pro-gun fanatics who too often have less regard for fellow human beings than they do their boom-boom sticks — and body armor, hallow-point bullets, bump stocks that convert rifles to automatic weapons, and every other item on a gun nut’s Christmas list.
The answer to this impasse is to be found in the middle of the road. There is nothing wrong with the Second Amendment, as long as we interpret it correctly.
The Founders wanted folks to have guns in order to support the federal government, not overthrow it. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.
Besides, the right to “bear” arms is not the same as a right to buy arms. The latter doesn’t exist. No one is saying that young people can’t have a hunting rifle, as long as their parents or legal guardians buy it for them — until they turn 21.
Still, no matter how you interpret the Second Amendment, it’s hard to see what good will come of the president’s plan to arm teachers. Imagine the accidents waiting to happen.
Conservatives oppose legalizing drugs because they say doing so would only encourage more drug use. They oppose giving legal status to the undocumented because rewarding “lawbreakers” only attracts more of them. But now they claim that the way to curb gun violence in schools is to put more guns in schools? The last thing we need are gunfights on school grounds.
America is facing a serious challenge as it goes about shaping its gun policy. So it deserves a serious debate. We’re not there yet. We’re not even in the neighborhood. Sadly, the hour is late — and the next tragedy could be just down the road.
Ruben Navarrette, a contributing editor to Angelus News, is a syndicated columnist with The Washington Post Writers Group, a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors, a Daily Beast columnist, author of “A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano” and host of the podcast “Navarrette Nation.”