Akin to many political junkies in this community, I have been following the current turmoil in Washington, D.C. For those of you who have not opened a newspaper, listened to the radio or watched TV news, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to initiate impeachment proceedings on President Donald Trump.
While this may be of great interest to those who live and work in Washington, I cannot find anything that directly affects Columbia or Boone County. Sure, it indirectly affects us by threatening the rule of law ... and perhaps democracy.
However, I will leave it to the national newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune and just about any newspaper in any large city) to cover this and opine on it. They, no doubt, will issue their opinions, which are usually much better than mine.
Instead, I want to turn to my favorite topic: weapons of war, such as the AR-15, the AK-47 and their copycats, which are for sale locally at Bass Pro Shops and Academy Sports. Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart, to their credit, stopped selling these weapons, which were created for only one purpose: to kill humans. In addition to stopping selling weapons of war, Walmart has now taken the step of not selling the ammo for these.
I have previously related how, when I was a teenager, I hunted for pheasants, rabbits and other small game. A .22 rifle and a 16-gauge, double-barreled shotgun were the only guns I used. My father also hunted, and his only weapon was a 12-gauge shotgun. Nowhere in the house was a pistol of any sort, as they were deemed worthless for hunting. They were used for defense and to hold up banks and stores — neither of which we needed to do.
But in my research on how to ban the sale of weapons of war, I stumbled upon a little-known law. The Missouri General Assembly has prohibited local governments from passing any ordinance or regulation that is not in line with state law regarding firearms (Chapter 571 of the Missouri Revised Statures).
This measure flies in the face of the mantra that “the best government is that which is closest to the people.” True, the Capitol is only about 30 miles away. In terms of geography, that is relatively close to us.
But in terms of the wishes of the people, it is on another planet.
While some of the citizens in the Ozark counties are perfectly satisfied with the mother state, not so with other counties, such as Boone, Jackson, St. Louis and others where homicides are common and the fear of mass shootings is prevalent.
There has been much media attention to the plethora of local persons shot dead — six in September. But there's not much that can be done about this in the way of local ordinances. The local police react promptly, but that is an after-the-fact reaction, not a preventive measure.
Police Chief Geoff Jones has advocated for more officers in order to attain more "community policing." That may or may not have an impact. One thing, however, is certain: The Columbia City Council can adopt no firearm ordinance that is stricter than state law.
Regardless of the fears of right-wingers, no one is about to suggest that pistols, small-caliber rifles and shotguns be taken away. If a local government adopted such an ordinance or regulation, it would immediately be deemed unconstitutional by any court of law.
Rather than a knee-jerk reaction against any suggestion of how to deal with homicides and mass shootings, those on the right need to help those of us on the left find ways to lessen the violence.
While the “Second Amendment folks” may favor state laws that prevent local action, we need to find ways to combat homicides and mass shootings. Ideas are needed, not rants about taking away Second Amendment rights.
Ken Midkiff, formerly the director of the Sierra Club Clean Water Campaign, is now chair of the city’s Environment and Energy Commission and serves on the board of directors of the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center.