- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2001

President Bush is a man who uses language quite clearly sometimes — his syntax detractors notwithstanding. For example, Mr. Bush, in announcing his proposed measures to deal with gun violence, said that he intends to target "those who commit crimes with guns." He did not say anything gauzy about "the children" or string nonsensical words together in an attempt to imply that such inanimate objects as firearms are somehow capable of causing mayhem all by themselves. Instead he specifically referred to people who "commit crimes with guns." Not law-abiding ordinary citizens, the vast majority of whom own and handle their firearms responsibly. Not hunters, who usually are out for four-legged game. And not firearms enthusiasts, who attend gun shows to buy, sell or trade their lawfully owned weapons not look for "loopholes" to swap them with gun-toting criminals.
These ordinary Americans are not the problem and never have been. Mr. Bush understands that impinging upon their right, expressed clearly in the Second Amendment, to use and possess firearms, serves no purpose other than to tyrannize the very people government exists to protect.
Accordingly, Mr. Bush has proposed tough enforcement of existing laws against those who violate this sacred trust — and in so doing jeopardize not merely the safety and security of law-abiding Americans, but also the constitutionally enshrined right most symbolic of a free peoples liberty. Specifically, Mr. Bush has proposed the hiring of 113 new assistant U.S. attorneys whose job it would be to go after gun criminals. Unlike current U.S. attorneys, who are burdened with myriad cases involving all kinds of criminal activity, these new prosecutors would focus exclusively on gun criminals. At the local level, the president has advocated providing money to fund the hiring of at least 600 new state and local prosecutors for the same purpose. The program, formally named "Project Safe Neighborhoods," involves $550 million in targeted spending aimed at arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning those who commit crimes using firearms.
Fundamentally, though, Mr. Bushs proposals are more important for the message they send than the particular policy they articulate. For the first time in eight years, we have an administration that understands the problem — and which does not reflexively resort to maudlin demagoguery about "the children" whenever a criminal commits an act of violence with a handgun. Whether the presidents initiatives become law or not is not nearly as important as the knowledge that his priorities are in order. This may well be a result of the fact that Mr. Bush, a veteran, is familiar with, as a wag has aptly put it, "which end of the tube the round comes out of." As such, he knows that guns are not the problem. People are at least, those people who misuse guns and obtain them unlawfully. They are the proper object of governments attention, and Mr. Bushs policy choices reflect this admirably.


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