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Archive for Saturday, September 18, 1999

SATURDAY COLUMN

September 18, 1999

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More and more, it appears gun control is likely to be an issue in the upcoming presidential election. Tragic and deadly shootings at Colorado's Columbine High School, at an office complex in Atlanta, at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles and, on Wednesday, inside a Fort Worth, Tex., Baptist church are sure to add fuel to the debate on how best to deal with the gun situation.

In such a climate, there are bound to be many nice-sounding, crowd-pleasing promises by candidates about the gun situation. Unfortunately, too many office-seekers will say what they think voters want to hear rather than what is in the best interests of all citizens.

It didn't take long after Wednesday's shootings for a USA Today columnist to call for the repeal of the Second Amendment, which gives Americans the right to bear arms. According to those favoring such action, the only way to reduce or get rid of the approximately 200 million guns in the U.S. is to do away with part of the Bill of Rights. The right to bear arms was the Second Amendment to the Constitution because of the importance attached to the subject.

Eliminating the Second Amendment may be a reasonable action in the minds of some, but what is to keep others from finding fault with other guaranteed freedoms or rights and trying to eliminate those? Where would it end?

It would seem far better to try to improve or correct the gun situation by working within the framework of the Constitution and enforcing laws already in existence that would have an immediate impact and help get guns out of the hands of convicted criminals, drug pushers, underage youngsters and others. Those caught committing a crime and in possession of a gun would receive an even tougher sentence.

Various knowledgeable people refer to specific examples in which crime and the use of guns have dropped significantly when laws already on the books are enforced.

It is puzzling that various law-enforcement officials are reluctant or refuse to enforce laws designed to get guns out of the hands of people who have shown they should be prohibited from owning guns.

Could it be that some people want to use the gun issue to try to impose even greater government control over the lives of Americans? Would a law requiring the registration of all firearms by owners give government officials the names and addresses of all gun owners -- all the information necessary at some future time to knock on the doors of gun owners and demand that they turn over their guns to some government agency? Sound far-fetched? Consider how many freedoms our forefathers thought were important and assumed would always be in place only to have them curbed or eliminated by government actions.

Members of the Clinton administration, particularly the president and his attorney general, Janet Reno, have been making emotional pleas for some time to get guns out of the hands of criminals. They would like to have some kind of gun registration law. They want to do away with gun shows, and they take every opportunity to use the gun issue to try to convince the public they are terribly concerned, sympathetic and want to do everything they can to reduce the danger of guns.

They are phony and talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Consider what the president has done by granting clemency to 16 Puerto Rican separatists. All of these people were, and probably still are, associated with FALN, a pro-independence group that proudly acknowledges it has been responsible for a series of bomb attacks and robberies that killed six people and injured many more. They were involved in seditious acts and all were found guilty of illegally carrying arms, and yet, Clinton, who wants to portray himself as committed to getting rid of guns, cutting down crime, making America a safe place, etc., ordered the 16 terrorists freed from prison. As might be expected, based on her previous actions or lack of action, Reno didn't raise any public objection to Clinton's action and now has defended the president's refusal to give members of Congress documents behind his decision to grant clemency to the murderers.

He cites his right to use executive privilege.

How many times has Clinton lied in the past, and how many more times will he lie and mislead the public before he leaves office? He talks one way for public consumption about guns but then frees 16 people who used guns and bombs and killed and injured many.

There is no way to figure out what motivated the various individuals involved in the shootings in Atlanta, Colorado, California and Texas mentioned at the outset of this column. Obviously they were sick and troubled. If they were determined to shoot and kill someone, or many people, they probably could have found a way to get a gun, no matter what the law.

The gun issue is, indeed, serious, very serious. But rather than turn it into a political issue, with too many politicians being less than sincere and truthful about the matter, it deserves the best possible, nonpolitical attention. There needs to be a sound, reasonable approach to get guns out of the hands of the bad actors and those who have the potential to be violent, while still preserving the Second Amendment. Why not use laws already in force? There are examples of cities where law-enforcement officials and judges have enforced laws and where crime and the use of guns have dropped dramatically. And yet, in other major cities, where law-enforcement officials have failed to enforce the laws and prosecute offenders, gun use, murders and other crimes are on the rise.

What kind of example does Clinton present when, out of one side of his mouth, he talks about getting guns off the street and, out of the other side, he grants clemency to 16 terrorists, all of whom were illegally carrying guns?

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