What does it tell you when a new group founded to clamp down on gun-ownership rights announces its formation by trotting out the celebrity victim of a crazed gunman?
It means the group does not really wish to have a serious and open discussion about the complex and troubling factors that have led to the explosions of mass violence we have seen in recent years committed by increasingly unstable, psychopathic outcasts.
Instead, the group would prefer to turn to its frail and lovely celebrity, point to the bullet wound on her head and attempt to seize the moral authority for disarming citizens and stripping them of their constitutional rights.
That's precisely what this new group with the Orwellian name — Americans for Responsible Solutions — has done. They announced their formation with a column in USA Today by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. "I was shot in the head," she explains in one of the opening paragraphs, as if that somehow grants her special qualifications or knowledge to conduct this deeply complex and highly charged debate about how to stop the sickening violence.
Of course, Ms. Giffords has no special qualifications or knowledge whatsoever. All her presence does is chill the debate. No matter how right you are that banning guns or ammunition or creating massive new government lists will not fix the problem, most mannerly people don't much want to disagree with a woman who just keeps pointing to the bullet wound on her head.
The purpose of this group, according to Ms. Giffords, is to "launch a national dialogue" about how to stem these travesties. But does she mention all the troubling common threads that run through the murderous rampages? Does she mention the severe mental instability of the deranged attackers? The powerful psychotropic medications so many of them were exposed to? Is she concerned about the mass-murder simulator video games they all played before carrying out the real deal? Or the obsession with horrific violence they watch streaming on endless loop from Hollywood?
No, she places the entirety of the blame on the existence of guns. The only possible way to stem the violence, she argues, is through federal laws passed by Congress.
"Weapons designed for the battlefield have a home in our streets," she laments.
Really? The automatic rifles carried by the military have been illegal for civilians in America for nearly 80 years and have not been used in any of the recent shootings. Either Ms. Giffords is lying to make her point or she is woefully ignorant about the most basic functioning of guns. Since she is a politician, perhaps she is both ignorant and lying.
She also frets about guns getting into the hands of "criminals and the mentally ill." Of course, no one in their right mind disagrees on this point, which is why there are laws already on the books prohibiting criminals and the mentally ill from possessing guns. That these laws are poorly enforced or generally ineffectual seems to undermine her larger argument that the solution can be found in the passage of more laws.
So what is it, precisely, that Ms. Giffords proposes? A giant government list of people who are mentally unstable and should not be allowed to purchase guns? Who makes and keeps this list? Federal bureaucrats? Shrinks? Schoolteachers? Angry neighbors?
Will this list be as fair and just as the security grope lines at the airport? Shall those condemned to the list have their foreheads tattooed in red ink so as to never be mistaken for a sane person eligible for gun-possession? Will mental health advocates and privacy zealots stand for such a list?
It is truly odd that it is a violation of federal law to create a list of people to whom you send spam on the Internet, yet these people have no such qualms about creating a list of people whose constitutional rights and ability to protect themselves would be summarily stripped.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at email@example.com.