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Editorial: Both sides should tone down the rhetoric in gun control debate

6:28 PM, Jan. 17, 2013  |  Comments
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The pro- and anti-gun control rhetoric has already heated up, and both sides are using children as their pawns.

We figured the public would be inundated with ads once the Obama administration released a gun control plan in the wake of the Dec. 14 Newtown, Conn., shootings in which 20 children and six adults were killed.

And we figured that hyperbole and misinformation would be part of it.

We didn't figure that children should be exploited for their purposes, but we should have expected that.

While President Barack Obama signed a series of executive orders for his proposals curbing gun violence, he was flanked by four children who had written him letters calling stricter gun control after the Newtown massacre.

The kids provide the Obama administration a valuable prop: Here are kids, like the victims in Newtown, who can see what those who oppose any restrictions can't see - that we need to do something to reduce gun violence.

Obama could have made his points without trotting out children for the theatrical effect.

The National Rifle Association went even farther with a commercial defending the organization's suggestion of putting armed guards in every school. Offering an unrealistic solution and then acting like every critic of it is unreasonable undermines the group's efforts.

The NRA's voice is further undermined by its commercial that focuses on Obama's children and says that they receive an armed guard but your children don't. The commercial says, "Are the president's kids more important than yours?" It then calls the president an "elitist hypocrite."

The reasons why the president's children are protected in this way at school should be obvious. But what the NRA says is that it doesn't understand why they should be protected and your children shouldn't.

Again, it's playing off the horrible nightmare of any parent - the death of a child - when the majority of those killed by firearms are adults. In 2011, 8,583 homicides were committed with a firearm, according to the FBI. Of those, 565 of the deaths were of people younger than age 18. The age group with the most deaths was the 20- to 24-year-old with 1,917.

The gun control debate should focus on how new legislation or restrictions could protect all people, adults and children, from homicidal maniacs and how more restrictions will affect law-abiding gun owners. Using children to play on the emotion of adults puts the debate on an emotional level instead of a rational one, which is where it's needed.

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