Our View, gun control: Failed bill has ironic consequences

April 20, 2013 

The law of unintended consequences sometimes can be as cruel and deadly as a loaded weapon left unlocked in a gun safe.

Proponents of the gun legislation that failed to pass in the U.S. Senate this week were in no small way being led by President Barack Obama. And the president was being led by polling information and tactics that included exploiting the tragedies in Sandy Hook and Tucson.

While the president was launching words like "shameless" at his detractors, we'll assign a word like "reckless" to underscore the irony that has overtaken the best laid plans of the legislation - which supporters hoped would make for a safer world because, among other goals, it would have expanded background checks for online sales and purchases at gun shows.

Apparently, nobody polled gun owners and would-be gun owners about how they were going to react to:

• increases in gun violence exacted on innocents.

• perceived attacks on their Second Amendment rights.

• legislation that produced a run on firearms purchases and concealed weapons permits.

Friday's Idaho Statesman story by Cynthia Sewell reported a 627 percent increase in concealed-carry weapons permits in Ada County and significant spikes in permit requests throughout our region. It is, in a sense, the results of a poll never commissioned. To say this reaction to Second Amendment concerns is "just an Idaho thing" does not hold water. A quick Google search of the topic indicates spikes in sales and permits around the country.

The half-life of grief and sadness lingering and surrounding the survivors of Newtown, Conn., Tucson, Ariz., and Aurora, Colo., is more than any one of us ever wants to bear. But it must be said that links to these tragedies more directly point to deficiencies in mental illness detection.

We appreciate the intent of the president's measures, but must question the method. The president issued his proposals and executive orders to take guns out of circulation and make our streets safer. The effect has been the opposite. He has created a panic, which has led to a boom in gun sales and permit applications.

There now are more guns on the streets, not fewer, and these proposals have done nothing to keep assault weapons and firearms out of the hands of criminals.

Recognizing this, Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch made the right call Wednesday in voting against expanded background checks. They were voting with their Idaho constituents and not being overly influenced by polls that asked a few leading questions, but which did not go far enough to probe reaction.

The next time gun control advocates hope to design laws to make us safer, we hope they include some on-the-ground reality polling, a more crisp focus on identifying and treating the mentally ill and a healthier respect for established law in Idaho and throughout the United States. The ability to purchase and conceal weapons is the right of law-abiding citizens.

Credit or blame for the spike in gun sales and concealed permits should go where it belongs: with the president.

"Our View" is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman's editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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