Once there was reason to believe that Americans collectively would come to our senses about guns and gun violence. If nothing else, maybe the shock of mass murders would jolt us into productive actions.
Such tragedies have made household words of Columbine, Newtown, Virginia Tech and too many other places where individuals armed to the teeth unleashed their rage on innocent people.
Yet we haven’t come to our senses. We’ve taken further leave of them. Rather than approve sensible restrictions — laws that would not undermine the Second Amendment –— lawmakers in at least six states have since Jan. 1 gone in the other direction. (Also, six states have tightened restrictions modestly.)
Lawmakers in states that have loosened restrictions seem to buy into the argument that the more guns there are and the more law-abiding people there are who wield them, the safer we all will be. They’re spurred on by the National Rifle Association, which opposes almost all limitations on gun ownership and for which the right to bear arms includes assault-type weapons.
Kansas is one of the six states to loosen gun restrictions. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed legislation that on July 1 will eliminate local governments’ authority to regulate guns and nullify any existing local restrictions. Legislators considered this bill, which the NRA calls model legislation, necessary because some cities, alarmed by previous laws that they deemed hazardous to their citizens’ health, pursued and in some cases approved restrictions within their jurisdictions.
The consistency the law applies is commendable, but it could have been consistently more restrictive. But as has been the case for many years, the arrogance that seems to breed in the Statehouse again led lawmakers to believe they know better than local officials what’s best for the latters’ constituents.
Still, the new Kansas law is almost innocuous compared to the Georgia Legislature’s folly. Georgia’s governor this week signed a law that will allow licensed gun owners in Georgia — and visitors from 28 other states who bring guns into Georgia — to carry guns into bars without restriction. They also can carry guns into airports — though not in secure areas. The law also allows school districts to permit employees to carry weapons at school and allow religious leaders to decide whether parishioners can bring guns into places of worship.
The NRA praised Georgia’s law as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent history.” Most law enforcement agencies in the state opposed it.
We’re not sure what it is about mass murders that renews enthusiasm for looser gun laws. Perhaps the initial calls for more restrictive gun laws that follow such horrors — calls that are generally constructive though hardly the entire solution — spark a backlash among folks who are convinced that their genuine Second Amendment rights are about to be taken away. We’re just as convinced they’re wrong about that and that a middle ground, however elusive, exists.
But it seems a long way from the Second Amendment to individuals carrying weapons into bars, airports, schools and other public buildings. Such policies represent more of a threat to peace than a defense of it.