Guest Editorial: Time to start talking, stop the polarization
In the wake of the devastating Las Vegas shooting which claimed nearly 60 lives and wounded more than 500 people, Americans should stop and consider the world in which we live today, where violence and acrimony seem ever more prevalent and intense.
This mass shooting, the largest in our nation’s history, is a galvanizing moment that should transcend our polarized politics to provoke a deep, critical and thoughtful discourse on what ails our great nation.
The bizarre and horrific details of the massacre rightly inspire immediate revulsion at the destructive power more and more of us live in terror of facing at random. They also lead us to question more broadly how to achieve true security in a disillusioned technological age, when enemies at home and abroad know all too well how to hit us in the easiest, most damaging way.
The biggest horror is the hardest to answer. Throughout history we have been shown how hard it is to prevent the dedicated from achieving the bloodshed they seek. Reasonable laws that keep weapons of mass murder out of public hands have a powerful track record of sustained, but not uninterrupted, success.
The U.S. has successfully imposed stringent restrictions, for instance, on fully-automatic weapons, driving the number of crimes involving such firearms to impressive lows. But technology is making it easier to fabricate illegal guns or to modify guns for short-term use as tools of mass murder.
Another difficulty involves the great variance in gun culture across the country, not only a function of competing ideals and habits but of the practicalities of space and population density.
As the Supreme Court acknowledged in the Heller decision, the right to bear arms does not mean that gun laws must be the same in a major metro area as they are in the countryside.
But the mobility and dedication of today’s killers — whether or not they are associated with or inspired by terrorist organizations — makes a mockery of the common-sense assumptions about public order that have historically shaped the laws of a free society.
Of course, perhaps the biggest impediment to reasonable progress is the entrenched political polarization that plagues us today.
Under pressure to fight every battle and exploit any advantage, activists for and against bearing arms are too quick to set aside pragmatism to score symbolic ideological victories.
While amassing private collections of firearms may be consistent with the spirit and the letter of the Second Amendment, it is hard to accept that anyone has a protected right to appear in the time and place of their choosing bearing more than 10 rifles.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that human nature and today’s technology will occasionally frustrate even the most stringent of laws.
Gun rights are protected by the Second Amendment, but there are no rights to own weapons of mass destruction.
There has to be a middle ground upon which we can all agree in the interest of ensuring the safety of our society.
So let’s talk.
Orange County Register, Oct. 2