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Monday, Dec. 14, 2009

Gun Sense

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On my morning talk radio show, I am regularly bedeviled by a black conservative who detests President Barack Obama and parrots extreme arguments he’s heard on right-wing radio.

The caller identifies himself as H.S., which tells you everything you need to know. He says it stands for House Slave.

Recently, H.S. was insisting Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett would have to scale back his opposition to concealed carry and support of gun control to stand a chance in the statewide governor’s race against conservative Republican Scott Walker.

One of the ironies, of course, was that H.S. assumed he knew where Walker stood on concealed carry. No one can be sure this week.

When he was in the Legislature, Walker co-sponsored a concealed carry bill. However, when he decided to run for Milwaukee County executive, in order to attract urban voters who believe we already have quite enough guns on our streets, thank you, Walker reversed himself politically and opposed concealed carry.

Now that he’s in a statewide race, will Walker flip-flop again and once more proclaim support for concealed carry to try to pander to gun-totin’ rural voters? If he did, why in the world would anyone believe him?

Taking a Stand

Barrett has joined with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and more than 500 other mayors across the country to strongly advocate for common-sense restrictions on the guns flooding city streets.

Barrett will get far more credit for taking a strong political stand on an important issue cowardly politicians prefer to duck than he would by changing positions and looking like just another politician who will say anything to get elected.

Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold has demonstrated the political strength of being a politician who is not afraid to take an unpopular stand. After 9/11, when a fearful public was ready to abandon many of our constitutional freedoms and go to war against anyone with imaginary weapons of mass destruction, Feingold was one of the few senators with the courage to vote against the Patriot Act and the War in Iraq.

Politicians with real convictions are so rare these days that Feingold’s maverick reputation is a political asset. Feingold’s voters may not agree with him on every issue, but they admire him for standing up. Besides, he keeps turning out to be right.

Contrary to what other politicians cowering under their desks think, Barrett’s national leadership on guns could turn out to have far more support among gun owners in Wisconsin than the National Rifle Association (NRA) wants us to believe.

E.J. Dionne Jr., the columnist for The Washington Post, quoted Barrett recently in a column reporting the surprising results of a national poll of gun owners and NRA members. The poll was commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and actually conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, a supporter of the NRA. Luntz surveyed 832 gun owners nationwide, including 401 members of the NRA.

And guess what? Extremist leaders of the NRA who oppose any government regulation of gun ownership as the first step onto the “slippery slope” of confiscation of guns from citizens do not speak for most gun owners or NRA members.

In fact, 69% of all the gun owners surveyed favored closing the gun show loophole by “requiring all gun sellers at gun shows to conduct criminal background checks of the people buying guns.”

Another proposal advocated by the mayors, “requiring gun owners to alert police if their guns are lost or stolen,” was supported by 78% of gun owners.

Both of those proposals are aimed directly at guns used in crimes. When police trace guns used in crimes back to a purchaser, the purchaser often claims the gun was either lost or stolen. If gun owners were required by law to report the loss of a gun to police, those who provide guns used in crimes would no longer be able to masquerade as legitimate gun owners who just happened to misplace their deadly weapons.

Legitimate gun owners have no interest in protecting criminals. Murderers give gun owners a bad name.

Perhaps that’s why an overwhelming 86% of gun owners and NRA members surveyed supported the statement: “We can do more to stop criminals from getting guns while also protecting the rights of citizens to freely own them.”

One pretty obvious way would be to require private sales of deadly weapons between individuals to be reported to the state exactly the same way the private sales of automobiles are now reported.

State Sen. Spencer Coggs from Milwaukee for years has advocated such a law in Madison. Fearful of the NRA, legislators have never had the courage to pass such a law.

Sorry, H.S. But Barrett doesn’t see anything wrong with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. Neither do the majority of legitimate gun owners and members of the NRA.


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