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.


Bart Johnson 3 months, 1 week ago

For laws to be logical they must be universal and consistent. The government is just people like everyone else and nothing more. They have DNA, blood, bones and all the rest just like everyone else. There's no basis in reality for those people to have all the guns they want of any kind while they can tell the other people what they can and can't have.


David Reber 3 months, 1 week 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.


David Reber 3 months, 1 week 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'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.


Bob Smith 3 months, 1 week 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.


Mike Ford 3 months, 1 week 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 3 months, 1 week 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..."


Keith Richards 3 months, 1 week ago

I did not read anywhere in the 2nd Amendement the right bear UNREGISTERED guns or the right to own SEMI AUTOMATIC guns. If our country lets you own just a shotgun, isn't that meeting the criteria of your right to bear arms?


Bob Smith 3 months, 1 week 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.


Julius Nolan 3 months, 1 week 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 3 months, 1 week 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".



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