- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

The sniper has become the latest instrument of persuasion among gun-control advocates.
Their kind is popping up on cable news shows almost as frequently as ex-FBI profilers, most of whom refuse to speculate until the host rephrases the highly speculative assignment before them.
The logic of gun-control supporters, as always, breaks down soon after the opening exchanges. The logic is based on the premise that another piece of legislation or another layer of bureaucratic thoroughness just might impede or thwart or dissuade the next wacko killer. This overlooks the obvious law against killing, as strong a law as there is, sometimes resulting in the death penalty in Virginia.
If a dark mind is unmoved by a society's abhorrence against killing, why is this same mind apt to be moved by the next round of do-good legislative offerings?
This underlying premise does not make for a good debate, much less good TV.
Feeling helpless around the nuts in our midst is unacceptable, the source of the motivation to fix the unfixable.
Just the other night, in a pub on Capitol Hill, the gun-control argument was waged in tandem with all the theories regarding the modus operandi of the sniper. Logic was granted an excused absence, as it often is when the fear is genuine and local supply stores are said to be running out of flak jackets.
The need to do something, anything, to feel in control inevitably trumps the actual do-nothing condition of the masses. What can you do? That question is being posed a lot.
One former law enforcement type on television recently suggested that you should zig instead of zag and vice versa in public spaces. Don't allow yourself to be a stationary target for the sniper, he said.
Yet a cursory check of one neighborhood grocery store parking lot in the last few days revealed an absence of open field-type feinting among the patrons. Most appeared to be meandering about in customary fashion, somewhere between slow and slower.
Gun control, however impotent, apparently is the next best option if your running-back days are behind you.
Incidentally, I am not a gun aficionado of any kind. Don't own a gun, probably never will. Never been a hunter of wild game. But I have taken out three deer by vehicular homicide over the years, if that counts. Darn deer. Let's not get started on that one and how crazy the deer and their friends with PETA behave during rutting season.
The beating of the gun-control drum is certain to increase, if the fervor on talk shows and in a pub is any indication. The sniper is uncharacteristic of the garden-variety killer in the city, no doubt, yet perfectly in line with the city's homicide rate. Being shot is one of the harsh facts of city life, muted though that fact typically is unless there is a spate of killings.
Laws. Cash. Shoes. The city has tried a number of inducements over the years to rid itself of its weaponry and slow the spilling of blood. The city is not the Wild West locale it once was, in the recent past, but it is hardly the feel-good vision of gun-control supporters. Their good work remains debatable. The crack turf has been sorted out, after all.
As it has been pointed out innumerable times, the lawless are motivated to be armed, regardless of any measure that restricts the gun collector or outdoorsman. You could ban all guns and order the National Rifle Association to disband. OK. Now what?
Didn't America try something to this effect during Prohibition? Alcohol was the social scourge of the day, the thinking then not too distinct from the thinking of gun-control advocates. Prohibition met the level of effectiveness or ineffectiveness of each side before the law was repealed in 1933.
The demand for a product, legal or otherwise, often tugs on a populace harder than the acts intended to enhance the populace's quality of life, sometimes in subtle form. The well-meaning mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, in his zeal to kill tobacco by onerous sin tax, instead has fostered a growing marketplace for smugglers.
This sort of buzzing in the Washington region is understandable, a coping mechanism around a deranged nut or nuts who can't be apprehended fast enough.
So you do what you can. You go about your business. You live.
The gallows humor from the pub was well-intended, aimed to ease the anxiety.
One of the admonishments was, "Don't forget to duck on your way to the car."

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