In the midst of March Madness, something sports fans (and even some non-sports fans who play the game each year for grins) really needed this year, our good spirits and lightness of heart were tempered with the news of another mass slaying.
In Boulder, Colorado, an armed man took to shooting in a grocery store, leaving 10 dead. Once again, we’re numb as we learn of family members left to mourn the loss of a loved one – someone who might have simply stopped to get something to take home for dinner.
I remember a few years ago hearing a host of a podcast say every time we have one of these killings, those on each side of the gun control argument overreact.
I thought his comment was way out of line because I don’t think I could overreact to something so horrendous. If anything, I might become so hardened to it, I might under-react.
But I think I might understand what he was trying to say. When something like this happens, those in favor of more strict gun legislation immediately speak out about the senseless act that just occurred, and ask the age-old rhetorical question of how long we will let this continue before doing something about it -- as in passing laws that will make it more difficult for people like the Colorado shooter to obtain guns.
The gun rights folks counter with how it’s not the guns that cause the problems, it’s the sickness inside the people who commit these heinous acts. They contend passing laws will not change that one iota. (And while they’re at it, they throw in a reference to the Second Amendment.)
And like so many other topics, it becomes political, and nothing much happens other than the argument continuing with no minds changed.
President Biden was quick to speak, as he should have, after the Boulder shooting. He leaned more toward the gun law argument. If Congress won’t pass legislation already in the works that tightens up registration requirements, he has hinted at executive orders (with which he is quite familiar) to take care of it.
Ironically, here in Tennessee, there was already legislation being proposed that will loosen some restrictions, this time pertaining to handguns. Affectionately known by its proponents, including Governor Lee, as “constitutional carry” or “permitless carry,” the proposal would remove the state’s permit requirement for carrying a handgun.
Former Governor Haslam opposed this type of legislation. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors have testified against it, warning it will put police officers in vulnerable positions.
But it is all but assured of passing in this heavily red state. Having already made it through the Senate, it is now headed for the House before it will land on Governor Lee’s desk for approval.
Interestingly, even though the respective sides have argued for years over interpretation of the Second Amendment, there are only a couple of U.S. Supreme Court cases that address it. Lower court rulings are all over the place.
Proponents and opponents of tighter gun restrictions can find plenty to hang their hats on among various lower courts, but the Supreme Court has only affirmed the rights of U.S. citizens to have a handgun in their homes for self-defense, and that’s about it.
That would be a discussion for another day, but it is somewhat informative of how and why the arguments continue. You might call something “constitutional carry” or confidently state the framers never intended for anyone with a pulse to be able to buy an assault weapon, but that would be your opinion, according to your interpretation. For the most part, the highest court in the land has not weighed in.
I realize I’m rambling here (it’s what I do when I’m worked up over something and have trouble making a point), but I think it comes back to something I wrote a few weeks ago in this space about listening.
Will it ever be possible to pass sensible gun legislation that will not make a large segment of the population believe their rights are being violated?
Would the folks who believe passing said legislation is the only way to deter what happened in Colorado be willing to consider how there are very real sicknesses of the mind and heart that cause people to commit unspeakable acts?
And in my perfect but improbable world, is there a possibility of bringing the two sides together, resulting in some potential solutions (because the two sides listened to each other)?
I’ll stop rambling and leave that question open for discussion.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at [email protected].