John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Keep Calm and Carry On a Real Conversation

Posted on December 21, 2012


In the wake of the atrocious mass murder in Newtown, Conn., last week, we've heard much about starting a soul-searching "national conversation" on gun control. I am all for a true, civil conversation, so here are some guidelines for our national discussion and debate.

*While some public policy changes may be in order, there is likely nothing that would have stopped Newtown from happening nor is it within our power to absolutely prevent by changes in law something like this from ever happening again.

When tragedies like this happen, we want to assure ourselves we have the capacity to stop them in the future, that there's something we can do to ensure nothing like this will ever happen again. While there may be lessons to learn and public policies to pursue, the fact of the matter is that there is no cure-all for the evil that lurks in the human soul. Government exists to restrain and punish evil, but evil will never be completely restrained by fallible and feckless human beings.

Let there be discussion and debate. Let there be policy proposals. But neither an assault weapons ban nor arming teachers will absolutely ensure that evil or mentally disturbed people don't set their sights on a school to take away innocent human life.

On any given day, almost every school in America will end its instructional day with no security incidents, much less a murderer taking children's lives. On any given day, there is ultimately nothing that will stop a determined, depraved individual from setting his sights on a school, and no public policy change will stop that, only the sheer grace of God can.

On an intellectual level we already know this, but this should inform our debate and how we treat those who disagree with us, which leads me to the second point

*The other side of the debate is NOT demonic, and changes in the law that we don't approve of are NOT the end of the world.

Nobody wants any American, much less our children, to be vulnerable and unprotected. Both sides of the gun control debate earnestly believe they are advancing policies which, in the main, secure the safety and promote the general welfare of society at large. Suffice it to say, the national criminal background check system, supported by the Brady campaign and initially opposed by gun rights groups, has been a success and is sensible. Virtually everyone agrees that background checks for gun purchases are a sensible policy.

By the same token, it's clear from decades of comparative data that concealed carry states are not the shoot-em-up dystopias that gun control groups feared they would be in the early 1990s.

Guns are inanimate objects. They should be kept out of the wrong hands, although we can never completely prevent them from getting into the wrong hands. Because that is true, we should be abundantly careful to make sure guns may be held in the right hands, and that law-abiding civilians are not punished for the actions of the criminal and the insane.

*It is not altogether unlikely that a "balanced approach" of some sort may be a reasonable compromise.

The Left is calling for a re-instated assault weapons ban and/or limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines, while some on the Right are calling for arming teachers and principals. Much of the debate is going to be advocacy groups talking past each other, but ultimately the American people, through their elected officials, are going to have to decide a) what works and b) what works within the parameters of the Constitution's guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms.

While I doubt the efficacy and wisdom of reinstating a federal assault weapons ban, it is quite likely the courts, including the Supreme Court, may find such a ban constitutional. And while I believe concerns about the so-called gun show loophole are overblown, I'll admit there may be a way to close that loophole but structure the regulation in such a way that it is not overly burdensome for private gun collectors and sellers to buy, sell, and trade guns at gun shows without bearing onerous regulatory costs.

By the same token, I truly believe that it is best to let states and localities consider if they would like to permit teachers and administrators to carry concealed weapons on the job. Let there be some measure of training, particularly the sort of training that police officers get to handle such spree shooting incidents. Let there be training and practice for teachers and administrators who wish to carry concealed.

The heroic teachers of Newtown hid their students and threw themselves into the line of fire, literally, laying down their lives. Those valiant people are precisely the type of persons you could trust carrying concealed and taking their scenario training very seriously. It's odd to me that many Democrats, who champion teachers unions, seem aghast at the very notion, appalled that anyone would even suggest it. They shouldn't be.

So, in conclusion, yes, we need a national conversation, but a conversation implies civility and an intelligent search for public policies that make our kids safer while safeguarding our constitutional rights.

Keep calm and carry that conversation on.

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Ken Shepherd is the managing editor of NewsBusters.org and formerly a staff writer for the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute. Ken graduated cum laude from the University of Maryland in 2001. He lives in New Carrollton, Md. with his wife and daughter. You can follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/kenshepherd.

The views expressed on TheFeeheryTheory.com are Ken’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of NewsBusters.org/ the Media Research Center