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WHAT OTHERS SAY: NRA's definition of 'sane American' sure has changed

Friday, July 27, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

An executive at the Chesterfield company Cat5 Commerce said a very reasonable thing earlier this week.

The company, which runs the website Tacticalgear.com, sold some of the gear and body armor that accused mass murderer James Holmes wore when he allegedly gunned down 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater last Friday.

In light of the horrific shooting carried out by a well-armed, possibly mad gunman, Cat5 Chief Operating Officer Andrew Hoefener told KMOV-Channel 4 that, "If any additional scrutiny needs to be paid, it's probably to ammunition sourcing online and firearms and how those are purchased."

Unless you believe that there should be no limitation on any purchase of any sort of weapon an American can buy, ever (tank, anyone?), there's nothing unreasonable about that statement.

It doesn't trample on the Second Amendment right to own firearms. The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that government restrictions on certain types of gun purchases, as well as licensing and other such regulations, are legal.

Mr. Hoefener's statement didn't blame the actions of a crazy man on the right to own and purchase guns.

His statement merely recognized that the high-capacity magazines and ammunition that Mr. Holmes bought online fire much more quickly than what used to be legally available.

Has the gun debate been so far removed from reality that in today's political environment we can't even talk about that?

Apparently so.

Pro-gun ideologues — who mistakenly read the Second Amendment as saying "anything goes" — reacted swiftly to the Cat5 executive daring to suggest that any red-blooded American being denied the freedom to own high-capacity magazines that allow said red-blooded American to shoot 60 rounds a minute is tantamount to shooting up the U.S. Constitution with a rapid-fire Glock pistol.

A blog post at Soldiersystems.net, which bills itself as the industry daily for tactical gear buffs, took off on Mr. Hoefener, and commenters suggested that they'd stop buying gear from Cat5.

"What the hell is he talking about?" said one blog post. "And does he have any idea what he means when he says that?"

In fact, Mr. Hoefener's statement hit the bullseye.

As The Denver Post pointed out in an editorial on Monday, high-capacity magazines have been used in several mass murders in recent years, including the deaths of six people in the 2011 shooting that wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the 2009 massacre of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas.

Such magazines would have been illegal if Congress had continued the assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004. That ban originally became law in 1994, a time when the country actually could engage in legitimate debate about divisive issues.

Does that mean a new law or the renewal of an old one would stop mass shootings? Of course not. But it might make them more difficult. It might save a life or two. It ought to be discussed.

So should this: While the gun lobby has gained strength in the past couple of decades, the actual rate of gun ownership in the country is declining. One in two households had a gun in 1973. In 2010, despite an explosion in the number of guns in the United States, the rate fell to one in three. Fewer people own more guns, and those guns are more powerful than ever.

Firearm homicide rates in the United States are significantly higher than in the other 23 top industrialized countries in the world.

We should be talking about that. Then there's this: Alan Berklow reported on Salon.com this week that while National Rifle Association Executive Director Wayne LaPierre has been raising money by lying about President Barack Obama's intention to take away guns, and that he and his fellow NRA executives and board members haven't themselves contributed to the NRA's political action fund in this election cycle. At the NRA national convention in St. Louis in April, the NRA said this was an "all-in" election.

All except for them, that is.

These days, when a madman shoots up a theater, it's OK to talk about banning Batman costumes. But discuss the weapons used in the violence? Well, "Now is not the time." That was the refrain from Fox News talking heads within hours of the incident. It's like they all got the same memo.

If not now, when?

The nation's two key presidential candidates, Mr. Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, once took reasonable positions in favor of some gun control laws. Now both men, quaking in fear of the NRA, refuse to even discuss the topic.

The result is political paralysis.

"As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable," wrote Harvard University history professor Jill Lepore in a piece in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker examining the history of American gun laws.

So when an executive from a company that makes its living selling gear to gun enthusiasts dares to poke his head out of his bunker, he draws a lot of not-so-friendly fire.

Cat5 CEO Chad Weinman was quick to walk back the statement of his COO, "setting the record straight" that his company "fully supports the Second Amendment." Mr. Weinman went to the pro-gun blogs himself and posted his full-throated support for gun rights, throwing his second-in-command under the armor-plated bus.

The gun debate hasn't always been this one-sided.

The NRA backed the nation's first two major gun control laws, the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1938 Federal Firearms Act. Then there was this: Five days after Lee Harvey Oswald used a bolt-action rifle he bought from an ad in the American Rifleman magazine to gun down President John F. Kennedy, the NRA's executive vice president testified in favor of a gun control bill.

"We do not think that any sane American who calls himself an American can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States," Franklin L. Orth told Congress.

The definition of sanity has changed since 1963.

Today, sane Americans can't even talk about guns. The gun Oswald used is a pea-shooter by today's standards. That's our new reality.

Reason be damned.

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.


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Comments

Charles leverett July 27, 2012 | 8:35 a.m.

I would like to point out an error in this article. The owner of Tacticalgear.com said, I believe in an article posted online on this website, that the tactical vest he sold was not body armor. I have no problems with people having opinions, but please get your facts straight.

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