- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 16, 2000

President Clinton has a talent for emotional exhibitionism. Nothing illustrates this talent better than the current war of words going on between Mr. Clinton and the National Rifle Association over the issue of gun control. The NRA has been critical of the president's exploitation of recent shootings one by a disturbed child who lived in a crack house with felons who traded guns for drugs to call for yet more restrictions on regular Americans who, of course, are not the problem when it comes to violence, "gun-related" or otherwise.

The president has been calling for mandatory trigger locks, labyrinthine licensing requirements and paperwork to hobble people who have never committed a crime of any sort let alone misused the firearms they are constitutionally entitled to possess. NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has done his best to rebut the president's demagoguery but his oratorical skills are not in the same ballpark as Mr. Clinton's. In an awkwardly worded statement made on ABC's "This Week," Mr. LaPierre said that Mr. Clinton "needs a certain level of violence in this country … he's willing to accept a certain level of killing to further his political agenda and his vice president's, too." Sounds not so good, eh?

What Mr. LaPierre could have said is that Mr. Clinton isn't willing to pursue policies that would actually cut down on criminal misuse of firearms (such as aggressive prosecution of those who use guns to commit violent crime). Instead the president would rather demagogue incidents such as the shooting by the sixth-grader near Flint, Mich., to score political points.

Mr. Clinton did not take long to issue his rejoinder: "I'd like to see him look into the eyes of the mother of little Kayla Rolland" speaking of the girl who was killed by her crack house-dwelling, revolver-packing classmate in Michigan. Mr. LaPierre promptly shot back, "The president is the one who needs to look in the eyes of the American public" and explain to them why the federal government doesn't more effectively pursue gun criminals.

He's right. While incontestably awful, shootings such as the one in Michigan are not going to be prevented in the future by pestering middle Americans with more anti-gun edicts. It's irrational to believe that possession of firearms, as such, by responsible people who comprise the vast majority of gun owners, is the problem. The president plays to the emotion and fears of an audience that is 1) increasingly unfamiliar with America's hunting and shooting-club heritage and 2) desperate for an end to the string of shootings. One hopes Americans will resist his seduction, for their own sake.

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