Tom Clementi: It's time to take stand on gun control

5:42 PM, Jan. 29, 2013  |  Comments
High angle view of a gun
High angle view of a gun

Well, it was a good thought for a while. After the student massacre at Newtown, the latest in a line of mass shootings from Aurora to Oak Creek to Virginia Tech to Columbine, I thought we might, at long last, get some sensible weapons legislation without the rancor that has always accompanied the idea.

No chance. After a few days of silence, the National Rifle Association spoke - and hasn't shut up since. Joining it has been the expected assortment of politicians who believe that contributions and endorsements from the NRA necessary to their political lives.

First, some facts, from Business Insider Online:

? There are nearly 15,000 more gun stores in the United States than there are grocery stores; yes, there are more places to buy guns than food in America.

? Americans bought more than 8 million guns in 2010. We're adding guns faster than people.

? During the recent recession, gun-industry jobs have grown by 30 percent. Since 2008, the stock market value of Sturm, Ruger and Co., the largest publicly-traded gun manufacturer, has increased by almost 700 percent. Compare these numbers to general job growth and stock market value during the same period.

Yet the NRA continues with its scare campaign that the government is coming to take our firearms away. Even in the Wisconsin recall election last summer, the NRA ran television ads, showing hunters in the field, with a voice-over warning that the election of Tom Barrett would lead to the confiscation of hunting rifles.

Anyone remember any discussion of gun legislation during the recall election? I didn't think so. But the NRA jumped in, using scare tactics to influence voting.

There have been a dozen presidents in my lifetime, and not one of them has ever said he's coming to get anybody's deer rifle, but that remains the NRA mantra - keep buying guns, lest the government show up at your house to take them away.

The trouble is, we've moved way beyond deer rifles. The killings at Newtown were done with an AR-15, a military assault weapon. No one goes deer hunting with an AR-15. Yet, when the president or anyone else brings up the idea of regulating ownership of military weapons, the gun lobby, the NRA and any number of politicians immediately run for the cover of the Second Amendment, claiming that it's sacrosanct and, therefore, gun ownership is off-limits to legislation.

But just saying so doesn't make it so. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is one of those supposedly concerned about Second Amendment rights, but like so many others, Johnson conveniently ignores the first part of the amendment, which explains that arms ownership by citizens is needed to raise a militia quickly.

Since we now have a large standing military, we really don't have to worry about raising a citizen militia anymore to guard against a clandestine border-crossing invasion. There's room for common sense, I hope.

Remember the Patriot Act? Passed in the emotional days following 9/11, Congress passed this omnibus legislation, which undoubtedly restricts civil liberties found in the Bill of Rights. This was done in the name of national security and, though things like airport body scanners are inconvenient and disturbing, we accept it.

Fifty years ago, there were no automobile seat belts. Now the law says we have to wear them or be ticketed. We accept it in the name of safety. The right to own weapons that make "Dirty Harry" guns look like cap pistols should fall into the same category.

AR-15s are similar to weapons carried by vigilante groups in Syria and Libya. Why the NRA thinks it's OK for Americans to carry them in our streets is beyond me.

What's next? Using the NRA's logic, should we be allowed to own tanks and shoulder-fired missile-launchers?

NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre has been the most outspoken critic of President Barack Obama's proposals to restrict automatic and semiautomatic weapon ownership. LaPierre has even been critical of the administration's idea to close the notorious "gun show" loophole, through which buyers can avoid waiting periods and background checks to purchase all manner of weapons.

He objects to a proposed government database of gun owners, conveniently ignoring the fact that the government has a database of myriad things we own, from automobiles to checking accounts. A federal gun registration data base won't cause the demise of democracy.

During the past decade, we've only made it easier to own guns and have passed laws allowing us to carry them most anywhere. Eight states permit tavern patrons to bring guns in with them. How safe does that make you feel?

It's time to end indiscriminate murder in our churches and schools. And it's time to stop running scared from those who profit from our fear.

- Tom Clementi is an Appleton resident and a Post-Crescent Community Columnist. He can be reached at

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