By Kathleen Parker
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.)
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?
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.
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.
In a country with an estimated 250 million to 300 million guns, imposing new laws on honest people is problematic and bureaucratically complicated. A
The fact is, crazy people who would commit a Newtown-type massacre constitute an infinitesimal percentage of the population. Criminals will always have guns, as the murderer on death row told me when I first wrote about this issue 30 years ago. And forcing law-abiding gun owners to submit to new regulations will not prevent another Newtown, or Aurora, or Columbine.
This is not to say we should do nothing. But, lest we delude ourselves, whatever we do, we will do because it makes us feel better. Perhaps that is enough.
KATHLEEN PARKER’S email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.