Neal

Jeff Neal

The Sandy Hook tragedy took a toll on me.

My youngest daughter was 4 years old on Dec. 14, 2012 — not that far removed from the 20 6 and 7-year-olds who perished in their classrooms at the hands of an armed madman that day.

My knee-jerk reaction was gun control. Ban them. Take them away. Do whatever it takes to keep this from ever happening again.

It took some time, but reasoning eventually kicked in.

Instead of a blanket ban that would affect good people who have every right to own and carry a firearm, why not try to come up with some real solutions — solutions that could be applied to the problem.

My first thought was armed marshals at schools — similar to the personnel placed on commercial airplanes following 9/11. And, lo and behold, a little less than a decade later our schools are protected by well-trained armed school resource officers. Their presence, coupled with more complex safeguards involving school entry and access to students, have made our schools much safer than they were in 2012.

There you have it. Common sense at work. And I am proud of our legislators in Frankfort for making sure Kentucky schools are protected against the type of senseless violence that took the lives of so many precious children at Sandy Hook.

Gun violence is back in the news again after recent tragedies in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado.

Naturally, our lawmakers in Washington are split among party lines.

It’s no surprise President Joe Biden and the Democrats are pushing toward sweeping gun-control reform.

In brief remarks responding to the Colorado shooting, Biden urged Congress to move quickly to close the loopholes in the background check system and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. According to a police affidavit, the Colorado shooter had purchased an assault rifle six days earlier.

“It should not be a partisan issue,” Biden said. “This is an American issue. It will save lives, American lives.”

It’s also not a surprise many Republicans are still strongly opposed to gun control of any kind. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said that every time there is a shooting, the Senate engages in “ridiculous theater,” with Democrats proposing laws that he said could take guns away from law-abiding citizens. Republicans have argued that background checks would not stop most mass shootings and would prevent some lawful gun owners from purchasing firearms.

 Legislation passed by the House last week would require background checks for most gun sales and transfers — including private sales and sales at gun shows.

Somerset’s Congressman Hal Rogers said the legislation would allow for redundant background checks, restrict the rights of responsible gun owners and ultimately fail to prevent mass shootings.

“We all want to end gun violence, but these bills are not the answer,” said Rogers. “Over the last few years, Republicans passed common-sense laws that increased collaboration and training between schools and law enforcement, improved national reporting, and reformed the mental health system. We need a system that prevents violence and protects the rights of responsible gun owners.”

Closing the “gun-show loophole” would likely prevent convicted felons from purchasing firearms illegally. And no felon should ever own a firearm. Period.

Some Republicans hinted that they would be open to negotiations, though it was unclear if there were any real bipartisan discussions. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he was opposed to the House legislation, but “I’m certainly open to the discussion.”

In my opinion, expanded background checks do not infringe on the 2nd Amendment and might prevent very bad people from getting ahold of firearms.

Would these laws halt mass shootings in their tracks? Not likely. The old adage that laws won’t prevent criminals from obtaining guns, unfortunately, is true.

But legislation that would definitely infringe on the rights of gun owners are Biden’s suggested ban of assault rifles.

Yes, these weapons are the gun of choice for many mass shooters. But they are also very popular with gun activists who can legally obtain these weapons — even with an expanded background check and zero loopholes. So why penalize law-biding citizens for the actions of a few bad apples?

The problem with gun-control laws is that Congress has never discovered that middle ground. They’ve refused to compromise.

The harder Democrats push, the more defensive Republicans are. Ironically, former President Donald Trump, a Republican, scored a victory for “gun control” after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting with a ban on the “bump stock” — the devices used to make semi-automatic rifles fire continuously like machine guns.

But whatever comes out of this latest gun-control debate on Capitol Hill, American gun owners, at the end of the day, are responsible for keeping themselves and their family safe.

Train yourself so you know how to use your firearm safely — and effectively.

Keep your firearms in a place where children (and anyone else you don’t want handling your guns) can’t get to them.

Don’t sell your guns to career criminals— even if it is a private sale with no ramifications.

And don’t fret too much if these expanded background checks come to pass. Remember, if you have nothing to hide, you’ll still be able to legally obtain your firearm.

JEFF NEAL is the Editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com

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