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Gun law backlash

9/12/2013

Random mass shootings in this country tend to energize both sides of the gun control debate.

Random mass shootings in this country tend to energize both sides of the gun control debate.

After 2012 was witness to two such horrific incidents, lobbying efforts went into high gear throughout the country. Having 12 killed and 70 injured at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, followed by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six adults dead, was too much for most legislatures to ignore.

There was no middle ground on the issue, nor was there a common response. Citizens were clamoring simultaneously for stricter and looser gun laws.

That ambivalence led to the U.S. Congress unable to do a thing. A similar lack of result took place in Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Delaware. But many other states throughout the country did amend existing laws.

Some, such as Colorado and New York, went with limits on magazine capacity and increased background checks on potential gun purchasers. Arkansas went for allowing weapons inside churches and further arming of teachers inside schools.

Here in Kansas, elected officials decided more public places needed to allow concealed carry weapons. As a result, cities, counties and universities either are planning to install elaborate security measures or simply accepting the fact more weapons will be in their midst.

Time will tell which approach is more effective. And the next election cycle should reveal which is more politically palatable.

Our neighbor to the west decided not to wait that long. A recall election in Colorado this week resulted in two state senators -- including the president of the Senate -- being removed from office.

Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron, both Democrats, are now footnotes in history as the first elected state officials to be recalled since Colorado instituted the provision in 1912.

The successful recall efforts received the backing of the National Rifle Association, but it was the overwhelming outrage amongst residents who made the "ready, aim, fired" campaign work.

Victor Head, a plumber and one of the many fired-up activists, told the Associated Press that voters don't like their gun rights "being messed with regardless of party."

"Coloradans ... sent a clear message that politicians who blatantly ignore their constituents will be held accountable," said Dustin Zvonek, state director of Americans for Prosperity.

While we find it difficult to agree with many positions taken by AFP, Zvonek's comments were right on target. Elected officials everywhere need to be aware that gun-rights groups are a particularly active constituency. Any efforts to mess with gun laws, regardless of one's intent to safeguard children or protect society at large, will be met with action. Politicians would be better served going with majority rule if they want to retain their positions.

We would hope that at some point, the majority of all Americans would support better background checks -- or even any background check in the case of private sales. Americans cannot drive a car legally, partake in adult beverages or even run a daycare without some agency verifying they meet the legal requirements to do so.

Why the same perspective wouldn't be taken with obtaining potentially deadly weapons is beyond us. But, as the two former Colorado legislators now know, a better strategy than ramrodding new restrictions through the statehouse is needed.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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