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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wanted: G-Street

The leaders of the National Rifle Association hold, shall we say, absolutist views on gun ownership.  To listen to their public statements one would think Americans face a stark choice: Either guns of all shapes, sizes, and capacity for inflicting mass carnage must be readily available with minimal restrictions to anybody who wants them, or Americans might as well just surrender now to the dictator who will inevitably--perhaps instantaneously--arise once we sheepishly disarm.

I can't be the only one who sees this as a false choice, right?

I suspect a sizable majority of Americans--including, probably, a majority of gun owners and possibly even NRA members--subscribes neither to the extreme position outlined above nor to its polar opposite, what we might call gun-control absolutism or abolitionism.  I include myself in this majority.  Though no fan of firearms, I would not, even if elected to some Godlike position (late-night comedy show host?), advocate a complete ban on handguns.  I don't object, say, to a law-abiding citizen having a handgun for self-defense or to a hunter owning a rifle.

A majority of Americans could presumably reach agreement on a few sensible reforms that, while not eliminating the possibility of mass shootings, would make them more unlikely.  Most people, for example, would probably agree that guns and gun ownership should be regulated at least as stringently as cars and driving: People should have to pass a test before being given a gun license; guns should be registered and a state and/or national database of gun owners created; registered gun owners should be held responsible for any damage done with their guns, etc.  (I thank a Facebook friend, Andrew Pollack, for some of these suggestions.)  The specifics of a more sensible gun policy could be worked out, but most reasonable people could accept this as a starting point for a discussion.

So, here's my question to gun owners: Why do you continue to let the NRA speak for you?  American Jews who support the idea of Israel's peaceful coexistence with other Mideast countries formed J-Street--a "Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace" lobbying group--when they realized that AIPAC, the predominant Jewish lobbying group in Washington, was never going to moderate its emphatically right-wing ideology.  Why can't gun owners who favor sensible reforms that will truly help keep the public safe--I KNOW you're out there!--break away from the dead-enders (in every sense of the word) at the NRA?

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