February 10, 2011 in Opinion

No gun rights without ammo


Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Rep. Caroline McCarthy, D-N.Y., are proposing legislation that would reinstate a federal ban on the manufacture, import and sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones Jared Loughner is accused of using in the horrific Tucson shootings that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz.

This latest manifestation of the “do-something syndrome” surprises nary one gun-rights supporter and explains why sales of high-capacity mags have jumped in recent weeks.

Ammo mags containing more than 10 bullets were illegal under a federal “assault weapons” ban in place from 1994 to 2004. That didn’t mean folks couldn’t own or sell them. Companies could manufacture them only for purchase by law enforcement and government agencies.

But magazines made before Sept. 13, 1994, were grandfathered in under the law and were available if a buyer was willing to pay $60 for what was a $16 piece of equipment.

The same folks who are buying the dickens out of them now were buying them in the 1990s when talk of that ban commenced. They aren’t criminals; they are sports enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. The fact that you don’t have to wear body armor and take your kids to school behind a bulletproof shield proves that the preponderance of America’s gun owners are responsible, law-abiding people with no interest in committing crime.

The same question asked by supporters of the renewed ban was asked in 1994: Why does anyone need one of those? They should be left to the police and the military, not private citizens.

Therein lies the main disconnect with gun control advocates: They hold to the mistaken and potentially fatal belief that the police will be on hand to help them in their time of crisis.

Golly, they think, as long as I live in a community with a functioning 911 system, I don’t need a firearm. And even if I do want a gun for personal protection, I’ve got Granddad’s shotgun in the closet.

Gun-rights advocates don’t think that way. A self-reliant bunch as a whole, responsible gun owners don’t want to leave it to a local deputy to make it to the house in time to stop the intruder who is jimmying the window to their kids’ bedroom.

As I have written before, it is not now and has never been the job of police to save your individual hide. A slew of court cases confirm that law enforcement is necessary to help keep societal peace, not to protect individual citizens.

I’m married to a retired police officer. My security detail lives in the same house. And he knows better than anyone that the only person who can give me a fighting chance to survive an attack is me.

In a self-defense situation, I don’t ever want to be in a fair fight. And I don’t have a clue how many rounds it might take to stop an attacker.

As I type those words, I can hear people screaming at their newspapers or computer screens: You’re paranoid! You’re a right-wing apologist for the NRA! You’re crazy!

People are going to think what they want to think. But there’s one label I’m going to do my darnedest to never let stick: victim.

For gun-rights supporters, the issue isn’t what the magazines are for or how many rounds are necessary. The issue is what’s the next step if the government dictates how many are too many. Will Uncle Sam be back next year with a different number? And what’s so magical about 10?

With or without a ban, there is an ever-present need for vigilance on the part of gun manufacturers, dealers, buyers, owners and law enforcement agencies to make sure that all firearms are handled legally and with the full appreciation for the harm that can result if they are misused by someone who shouldn’t be in control of them.

Someone like the Tucson shooter. That unthinkable tragedy was the creation of a sick mind determined to carry out a sick idea. To presume that he would have been deterred once it became inconvenient assumes that the mind of a killer is capable of logic.

The question that gun-rights advocates want to respectfully pose to those adamant on restricting high-capacity magazine ownership is not “Why does anybody need one?” but “Why should responsible citizens not be allowed to own one?”

J.R. Labbe is the editorial director of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her e-mail address is jrlabbe@star-telegram.com.

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