J. KARL MILLER: Proposed legislation unlikely to address the problem of gun violence

Wednesday, December 26, 2012 | 11:46 a.m. CST; updated 5:27 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 26, 2012

COLUMBIA — Every normal person is appalled and sickened by the senseless murder of another human being. Naturally, the more horrific the killing and the number slain raises the revulsion at the killer's actions as well as an outpouring of concern for the victims, as well as the survivors.

There is no way to measure the horror and dread at the thought that a score of innocent kindergarten children could have been slaughtered by anyone. And, there is no way to measure the effect on the first responders to that ghastly crime scene — it can be expected to linger for a long time indeed.

As a career Marine, I have been exposed to numerous battlefield deaths that I could accept as the casualties of war. However, no amount of combat experience, can prepare one to accept the murder of children.  All our hearts go out to the families of the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

 Unfortunately, and nearly simultaneously with the national outpouring of grief, came the equally senseless demonizing of the National Rifle Association as the villain responsible for the crime. Denouncement and defamation of the NRA are the common knee-jerk reactions of the left and its fierce anti-gun minions. As a member of the NRA since 1955, I take umbrage at the unfair and ignorant portrayal of that organization.

Established in New York in 1871 as an organization to improve marksmanship training, the NRA has evolved into the premier promoter of gun ownership, marksmanship, hunting, gun safety and self defense on the national level.  "Eddie Eagle" program, aimed at teaching gun safety to children, stresses "If you see a gun, Stop!, Don't Touch, Leave The Area, Tell an Adult." 

The NRA also provides for the training and credentialing of shooting instructors.

A strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, the NRA also advocates the prosecution of everyone who commits a crime while in possession of a firearm and mandatory increased jail sentences for those convicted of crimes involving the use of guns.

The anti-gun members of Congress, activist organizations, syndicated political columnists, leftist pundits and bloggers and various well-meaning but uninformed individuals launched a series of vicious attacks on the NRA after the killings in Newtown. Among the worst was one by Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, normally a responsible journalist. His Dec. 17 diatribe  referred to "the NRA and other apologists for murder." It was clearly out of line.

Others, such as MSNBC's easily unhinged Lawrence O'Donnell, called NRA President Wayne LaPierre a "blood drenched boss" and accused him of wanting to preserve mass murder by firearm.

Slightly less damning attacks were launched by New York's nanny Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the usual suspects in the gun-hating media — all with a common goal — that of using the hysteria from a national tragedy as the vehicle to enact and re-enact restrictive legislation that has never worked before.

Let us hope cooler heads prevail — enacting new laws in the heat of the moment has a high chance of doing more harm than good. Examples of this un-wisdom include the banning of DDT, cyclamates and declaration of carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant.  The adage "act in haste, repent at leisure" is relevant.

It is a given that all wish to find a way to end the senseless killing. However, the primary target should be the active participant (the individual) rather than the inanimate object (the gun). Agreed, more attention needs to be paid to safe storage of individual weapons to keep them out of the hands of children and mentally deranged individuals. The NRA and local law enforcement have preached this for years.

If merely passing laws was the answer, there would be no problem — the last time I looked, murder, unlawful discharging of a firearm, carrying a firearm without a permit, taking a gun on school property and possession of a firearm by felons or the mentally challenged were all against the law. It stands to reason that laws will be observed by the law abiding but singularly ignored by the lawless.

As for the debate on banning certain weapons, it is painfully obvious that the majority of the gun control adherents don't have the foggiest notion of what constitutes an "assault rifle" or "assault weapon."  The "Assault Weapons Ban" in force from 1994 to 2004 did nothing to prevent the Columbine shooting nor would another version produce a better result.

As is its norm, the NRA observed a "cooling off period" before addressing the shooting. As expected, the NRA opponents and some members of Congress demonstrated against and ridiculed LaPierre's address. Strangely, his recommendation to add more armed police officers in our schools was largely mocked and derided — perhaps they forgot that former President Bill Clinton recommended the very same solution following Columbine?

The bottom line here is crisis reaction caused by fear, ignorance or good intentions to  further a cause or for political gain usually does more harm than good — it reminds one of Darrell Royal, former coach of the University of Texas Longhorns, who said in opposition to the forward pass: "Three things can happen, and two of them are bad."

For a number of reasons, not everyone is comfortable with the existence of guns, the Second Amendment nor with the NRA. But, the all-too-common reaction to blame the NRA in particular and the Republican Party in general for multi-victim murders is nothing less than absurd.

The Second Amendment rights of millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners and collectors must not be trampled in the haste to enact feel-good but useless legislation.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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