Opinion: No room for gun compromise

January 9, 2014


Here is what he said: “ … all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.”

It would seem to be a self-evident truth. After all, your First Amendment right to freedom of speech is regulated. If you don’t believe it, write something libelous about a guy with deep pockets and man-eating lawyers. Your Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is regulated and then some. If you don’t believe that, pick up your phone and ask the NSA agent tapping your line.

Unfortunately for him, Dick Metcalf, who made the aforementioned observation, was not referring to the First Amendment or the Fourth. No, he was talking about the Second. He’s been out of work ever since.

We are indebted to New York Times reporter Ravi Somaiya for bringing this story to light Sunday. Metcalf, who lives in Barry, Ill., is not a gun hater. To the contrary we are told that he is — or was, at any rate — one of the most prominent gun journalists in the country, a self-described “Second Amendment fundamentalist” who, at 67, has devoted most of his adult life to gun rights. He hosted a TV program about guns. Gun makers flew him around the world and sent him their products for review. And he had a regular column in Guns & Ammo magazine.

In his December column, Metcalf offered a nuanced argument that gun enthusiasts should accept some minor regulation of their Second Amendment rights. Specifically, he said, a requirement that people who wanted to carry concealed weapons undergo 16 hours of training was not “excessive.” The way his fellow gun lovers responded to this, you’d have thought he’d argued for U.N. confiscation of every gun, arrow and slingshot in America.

There were death threats. He lost his show. Subscription cancellations poured in. Advertisers demanded he be fired. And he was.

The community he had supported so faithfully had made him a nonperson. See, that community has a simple credo: guns — no restrictions. And any slightest deviation from that absolutist mantra is grounds for expulsion. If you are only with them 99 percent, you are not with them at all. George Orwell had a word for it: groupthink.

Metcalf’s experience is eye-opening, disheartening and worth remembering next time there is a mass shooting — they come with the regularity of buses — and you find yourself wondering why we can’t all agree on some simple, common-sense ideas to take weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of those who should not have them.

Why not expanded background checks? Why not mandatory gun-safety classes? Why not some system of mental-health reporting?

Think of Metcalf when you hear yourself asking those questions. Then ask yourself how many other Metcalfs must be out there, how many other gun-rights advocates who know in their hearts something has gone haywire when mass shootings are so frequent they barely count as news. And maybe these people would speak up as Metcalf did — except they know they’d be treated as Metcalf was. So they say nothing. And silence enforces silence.

This is the tragedy of the American gun debate. It offers no space for people of good will to seek common ground. Gun-rights advocates have embraced a “with us or agin us” ethos under which even someone as unimpeachably pro-gun as Dick Metcalf becomes an enemy just because he has a (slightly) different idea.

For their sake and the country’s, thoughtful gun owners must find the moral courage to face and fix that sad state of affairs. Until they do, the debate over guns is likely to ricochet from one mass tragedy to the next without ever finding consensus. It takes two sides to reach consensus.

And in America, one side’s not even trying.

— Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald.


Bob Smith 4 years, 4 months ago

"…Allow me to explain.

I hear a lot about "compromise" from your camp ... except, it's not compromise.

Let's say I have this cake. It is a very nice cake, with "GUN RIGHTS" written across the top in lovely floral icing. Along you come and say, "Give me that cake."

I say, "No, it's my cake."

You say, "Let's compromise. Give me half." I respond by asking what I get out of this compromise, and you reply that I get to keep half of my cake.

Okay, we compromise. Let us call this compromise The National Firearms Act of 1934.

There I am with my half of the cake, and you walk back up and say, "Give me that cake."

I say, "No, it's my cake."

You say, "Let's compromise." What do I get out of this compromise? Why, I get to keep half of what's left of the cake I already own.

So, we have your compromise -- let us call this one the Gun Control Act of 1968 -- and I'm left holding what is now just a quarter of my cake.

And I'm sitting in the corner with my quarter piece of cake, and here you come again. You want my cake. Again.

This time you take several bites -- we'll call this compromise the Clinton Executive Orders -- and I'm left with about a tenth of what has always been MY DAMN CAKE and you've got nine-tenths of it.

Then we compromised with the Lautenberg Act (nibble, nibble), the HUD/Smith and Wesson agreement (nibble, nibble), the Brady Law (NOM NOM NOM), the School Safety and Law Enforcement Improvement Act (sweet tap-dancing Freyja, my finger!)

I'm left holding crumbs of what was once a large and satisfying cake, and you're standing there with most of MY CAKE, making anime eyes and whining about being "reasonable", and wondering "why we won't compromise".

I'm done with being reasonable, and I'm done with compromise. Nothing about gun control in this country has ever been "reasonable" nor a genuine "compromise".

LawDog" http://thelawdogfiles.blogspot.com/2010/09/ok-ill-play.html

Amy Varoli Elliott 4 years, 4 months ago

I think a better example would be you go to buy a cake and the baker says hey let's check to make sure you don't have diabeties or have allergies before you buy that cake, we don't want anything bad to happen.

Nobody is limiting the number of guns you can buy, they just want to keep them from getting in the wrong hands. If people are so paranoid they feel they need a gun on them at all times they should go thru a proper class and prove they can responsibly handle that weapon and not further endanger the lives of those around them. If you can't shoot straight in a controlled environment you will not shoot straight in a stressful one.

Betty Bartholomew 4 years, 4 months ago

Have there been mass killings by cake? Or icing? Have I been missing the stories on drive by cakings and kids accidentally shooting themselves with frosting bags? I mean, I've heard about the great molasses flood, but not a word about death by chocolate cake...wait, no, that's what I make for my birthday every year. Must be a misnomer since I'm not dead.

Why does the pro-gun crowd always prop up their side with arguments about things that are non-deadly? Like spoons. I read an anti-regulation article where somebody said ice cream makes people fat, therefore we should take away their spoons. Well, you show me the last time somebody carried out a mass killing with spoons and I'll consider that analogy. Until then, no.

Guns in and of themselves may not kill people, but people with guns kill people and the prolific ease with which guns are obtained and what guns are available should definitely be regulated.

Bryan Moore 4 years, 4 months ago

Really Bob? So by that little story you're saying that the gun laws of this nation are holding back, what 95% to 99% of the guns you want and how you want to use them? With being able to buy almost any type of gun I want from a little stub nose .38 to a .50 cal sniper rifle, from pellet to AK's, and I can carry everywhere from church to the bank, from city hall to national parks (an ability that has expanded greatly of late), what/where is this 99% that you lack? Do SBR's and SBS's along with full auto's and silencers constitute 99% of gun rights? It seems to me that no one took your cake. Somebody may have removed a bit of the icing because they saw a fly land on it and didn't want it to make anyone sick. Now it may not appear as pristine as you would like it but I think if you take another look, 99% of your cake is still there not the other way around. If the way it is now is 95 to 99 percent repression of gun ownership and use, I shudder to think what this society would be like if we released that 95% more access and variety upon our streets.

John Patchen 4 years, 4 months ago

Bryan, I'd sure like to see the average citizen go out and buy a .50 caliber sniper rifle. The cost of the rifle alone is unreal. Add on top of that ammunition expenses, and for the average citizen, it's simply no a feasible firearm to own. It's a white elephant. Besides that, there are far better long range rifles for much less money.

Bryan Moore 4 years, 4 months ago

That's not really here or there. The question is "are the laws passed regarding gun ownership and use violating the second amendment?" I have first Amendment rights and I can buy a newspaper and exercise those rights in a big way. Can the average person afford to own a newspaper? No. Is it an infringement on his rights that it is expensive? No. I bet Dolph feels this paper is a "White Elephant" at times. He could do something cheaper like become a journalist and get an opinion column like Will or Pitts or just write a blog. You say you can buy "far better long range rifles for less money" and that is my point! You can buy a multitude of rifles in many calibers that fits what you want and like. You can replace the stocks, add scopes and expanded magazines. You can buy ammo in almost unlimited amounts, hollow points, soft points, jacketed, wad cutters etc from various makers. My question to Bob is what is the 95 to 99% of guns or uses of guns that the law is depriving him of. The story he posted said 9/10s of his gun rights had been taken away before 4 more bites were taken out of what was left, leaving only "crumbs" of what the cake (2nd amendment) originally was. All I want to know is what is that 95 - 99% that is forbidden by law (and not by economics) and if these restrictions exist and be they 1% or 99% of of the cake are these anymore intrusive than the restrictions we put on the other amendments?

Julius Nolan 4 years, 4 months ago

And Pitts is once again going to drive the gun fanatics crazy. And they wonder why they are considered crazy and fanatical.

Bob Smith 4 years, 4 months ago

"Argumentum ad hominem – the evasion of the actual topic by directing the attack at your opponent."

Bob Smith 4 years, 4 months ago

Here's a compromise I could work with, take SBRs and suppressors out of the NFA and we'll see about expanded background checks. That way both sides of the issue give up something.

John Middleton 4 years, 4 months ago

The Roe v. Wade decision was based on the 14th Amendment. Since there is no mention of "abortion on demand" in the text of that amendment, you won't object if we simply allow the use of birth control devices and medications to meet the needs of reproductive rights, and eliminate all abortion procedures in the U.S.? Isn't that meeting the criteria for your right to avoid pregnancy?

Mike Riner 4 years, 4 months ago

So Keith, I presume then that you drive a black Model-T automobile?

John Patchen 4 years, 4 months ago

Actually Keith, the 2nd Amendment is quite broad. As it 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 upon."

Unfortunately this opens a Pandora's box of questions. What is a militia? What is a state? What is the definition of arms?

Somethings are clear though, the militia existed long before the state. The first militia existed the colonies in the 1620's to protect the Massachusetts Colony. I believe it was 1621, but I'm not positive. That militia is historically what we now call the Mass. National Guard.
According to Max Weber, a state is "the machinery of government which organizes life in a given territory.” Which differs from a nation which is "a group which thinks of itself as “a people."
Next comes the definition of arms. Small arms are usually considered firearms that can be fired from one or both hands--pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and assault rifles. This differs from Light weapons such as squad automatic weapons, light machineguns, general purpose machineguns, and crew served weapons (requiring two or more men to operate.) With this information in hand the Second Amendment become easy to understand. 1) The people form the Militia, the Militia come before the State. 2) The right to bear arms shall not be infringed upon., so long as the keep within the terms of small arms. 3) According to the Declaration of Independence, the people have the right to throw of a government that is oppressive, or that no longer represents their will. The founding fathers understood this, understood the need for the people to be armed, and understood the role of the militia, that is how our nation came to be, and it is a "fail safe" if you will to ensure that the people have a way to ensure that the nation, as the founding fathers envisioned it, could endure.

John Patchen 4 years, 4 months ago

My apologies for the typos, everyone. I'm using a tablet with one of those small keyboards, and I'm still getting the hang of typing with it!

Bryan Moore 4 years, 4 months ago

Max Weber also defined the "State" as an entity which successfully claims a "monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory". So even if the Militia (under British rule) existed before the State (Massachusetts) is not the use of legitimate force still the sole purview of the State (according to Weber - if we are going to use a German sociologist to define US law)? Also are you saying that when the founding fathers wrote the 2nd that things like "squad automatic weapons, light machineguns, general purpose machineguns" where taken into consideration ("so long as they keep within the terms of small arms") and therefore are addressed by the original wording of the 2nd? It says arms. Not light arms, not small arms and no mention of "weapons" or "crews" anywhere. Those are your words not theirs. You are using a modern definition and applying it to something written 240 years ago. That's like saying that they envisioned the television and that the laws around broadcasted speech and their effect on the 1st, to conform to the present reality should not be allowed. And therein is the problem. All what you said makes sense given the terms as you define them, but they may not be the way I define them. You say it is a failsafe, for the people to throw off the government to ensure the nation the founding fathers envisioned. How many people have to feel this way to make the militia legitimate? Who defines what the founding fathers envisioned? My version or your's? Heck the founding fathers didn't agree on everything! Which founders? Washington? Jefferson? Franklin? Do you really think they all agreed on everything?

David Reber 4 years, 4 months ago

I don't see anything in the 1st Amendment about internet comment sites, yet here we all are......

Bob Smith 4 years, 4 months ago

Let freedom ring! "(CNN) -- A federal judge ruled Monday that Chicago's ban on virtually all sales and transfers of firearms is unconstitutional. "The stark reality facing the City each year is thousands of shooting victims and hundreds of murders committed with a gun. But on the other side of this case is another feature of government: certain fundamental rights are protected by the Constitution, put outside government's reach, including the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment," wrote U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang. "Chicago's ordinance goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms," he continued..." http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/06/us/chicago-gun-ban/

Mike Ford 4 years, 4 months ago

I'll let the cat out of the bag since the deniers won't. Certain US Presidents like those elected between 1992 and 2000 and 2008 and now bring out the super paranoia. All the while I still own all of the guns I've always owned and no one's taken them since 1990. Wait, Wait, Wait..... someone's about to tell me this time of taking guns is coming soon....just like the man in the black suit at the corner of 9th and Mass proclaiming the world is ending. Neither one is true right?

Bob Smith 4 years, 4 months ago

Mike, since it's mainly the folks on the sinister ( as in sinister vs dexter) side of the aisle who have the guns-are-bad plank in their platform, it should not be shocking that when Democrats have the White House that those of us who support the Second Amendment are more vocal.

David Reber 4 years, 4 months ago

I think Pitts is off-target. I don't see that gun owners would object to "reasonable" laws that would keep guns out of the wrong hands and actually reduce gun violence. What I see is that the gun control crowd always dreams up laws that will have zero effect on violent crime, and serve only to make it harder for upstanding citizens to participate in legal activities.

For example, Pitts fusses over people objecting to a requirement of hours of training for a concealed carry permit. Let's tally up how many violent criminals bother to get a CC permit prior to carrying concealed weapons....

Pitts says we need to expand background checks. Let's tally up the number of violent criminals who bother to submit to a background check before buying their guns on the black market and/or stealing them from upstanding citizens.

If there's one common thread I've noticed among those who get their pictures in the LJW following their arrest on firearm charges...it's that they almost always have just been released from jail on earlier violent and/or firearm charges. If we really want to reduce gun violence, we just need a "one shot = life without parole" law. But, Pitts would sure fuss over that being a violation of criminals rights....yessir, he would.

One final note.... Pitts, et al, will lose their target audience every time they refer to semiautomatic firearms as "weapons of mass destruction". They're not.

Scott Morgan 4 years, 4 months ago

Wow, same page as Dave, well almost. A bit frightening to me, but I've been a shooter for more than 5 decades. Used to hunt, but now only target shoot. Do keep a firestick around for home protection.

Dave is correct, gun folks do not see the laws making any bit of difference. In fact folks like me do not like "riled" up emotional gun buying as before with Clinton's gun grab and now Obama's fumbling the issue again. Many older gun folks firmly believe due to all the political publicity many guns have been placed in the hands of shooters who need more training.

I cringe when hearing the distant pop pop pop pop of somebody wasting good shells in rapid fire. But, I would not deny a law abiding person the right to do it. We have dozens of gun laws on the books now which often go unenforced.

A few more federal laws? I think back to the first seat belt political arguments. No harm, if your pulled over for a traffic violation one may be issued a small ticket for not wearing one. Police would not pull you over for just a seatbelt violation. Um? Auto insurance would not be affected. Um? Who could argue that? This was a government promise.

Well, one sees where this little law has gone. Police actually target citizens for not wearing a seatbelts now.

I could see the same thing happening to new ticky tack federal gun laws.

David Reber 4 years, 4 months ago

Couple more thoughts about gun control laws....

Aside from the "guilty until proven innocent" problem, I don't necessarily think background checks are a terrible infringement of rights. Inconvenient, yes. The problem I have with them is that they do little to prevent crime. I'd guess that a substantial portion of people who submit to background checks already own guns. If I decide to become a criminal, background checks wouldn't keep guns out of my hands because that horse already left the barn; background checks and all.

The other thing is that the gun control advocates usually target a specify type of weapon based on something that made the news. Invariably, they target weapons that look scary in the newspaper and in their favorite tv crime drama; but it's largely cosmetic features that they worry about. "Assault rifles", as they are commonly defined, are a collection of cosmetic features. These rifles are used in a tiny percentage of crimes, yet these are the guns people want outlawed.

And what if they were outlawed? Like they are in, say, Connecticut..... Even if outlawing them did prevent crime, what happens when the next criminal uses something different? Colorado...someone used a shotgun. What now? Outlaw shotguns?

Instead of fruitless efforts to keep guns out of the hands of killers, I think our country would be better served by solving the problem of WHY we have so many killers in the first place.

Bryan Moore 4 years, 4 months ago

" I'd guess that a substantial portion of people who submit to background checks already own guns." Isn't that the point? Now only those who can legally buy a gun would even try to buy one where they have background checks. Why would they try to buy one if they know the system required will not allow it. Will a criminal still get a gun? Probably, but we don't have to make it easy on him. If we can't stop them, I'd prefer they get the worst, most neglected firearms possible in the hope that they would malfunction at a critical time and not brand new ones from a gun show or dealer (not that I have any faith that most of these lowlifes have the first idea of how to maintain a weapon to where it wasn't giving them fits after a couple of uses). Now how they would do checks on individuals buying from each other as some have suggested, I have no idea. But let's at least get the low hanging fruit.

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