Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City ought to know by now that gun owners do not trust him. The more he agitates against guns, the more they dig in their heels. The more magnificoes he gets behind his Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the more gun owners and advocates of the Second Amendment see him as their enemy. He and his colleagues might only oppose the ownership of small cannons. They might only oppose extending gun ownership to convicted killers and to the criminally insane. Still, gun owners and Second Amendment supporters will be suspicious of him.
They quite rightly perceive Mr. Bloomberg as harboring ulterior motives in his sonorous pronouncements on guns. Small cannons today, but tomorrow, handguns, peashooters and slingshots. Frankly, I side with those who suspect the mayor of treachery.
Count me in the camp with Sen. Mark Pryor of the great state of Arkansas, who has said of Mr. Bloomberg: “I don’t take gun advice from the mayor of New York City. I listen to Arkansans.” Doubtless, Mr. Pryor would agree with me. A mayor who would ban large bottles of sugary soft drinks and harangue against trans-fats, which can be so delicious when added to restaurant food, is not to be trusted in the debate about guns. The mayor has set his sights against a long list of consumer goods. I might agree with him that some things on his list are not very appealing to me. Perhaps they are even unhealthy, but that decision is up to the consumer, not to an epicurean like me or to a nutritionist like the mayor. Besides, he is too eager to regulate the free market.
Fundamental to the debate about guns is that those who would regulate them, however sensible their regulations might sound at the outset, have lost the trust of large numbers of the American people. As I have implied, first they would call for regulations that are perfectly sensible, but that would not placate them. Next would come encroachments on fundamental liberties. The right to keep and bear arms is found in the Second Amendment, and increasingly, the Michael Bloombergs of this world share the views of other progressives. They find the Constitution old-fashioned and outdated. The rest of us find the Constitution a timeless protection of our rights.
Essentially, the gun debate is about our rights. Moreover, there are millions of guns out there already, as many as 300 million of all shapes and calibers. Gathering them all up or even registering them would be an impossible infringement of our rights. Accommodating the views of gun owners and pro-gun-control advocates is time-consuming and, ultimately, futile.
While the debate rages, many schools have become war zones, and all school zones are vulnerable. That is why the National Rifle Association’s recommendations are not so primitive as they have been depicted. In fact, the NRA’s recommendations are forward-looking and their opponents’ recommendations are timid and futile. One cannot eliminate guns from American society. Anyone who says he can is not serious.
If we want to get serious about gun violence we should take the NRA’s National School Shield program, announced Tuesday, to heart. Train and enable school personnel to carry firearms. In high-risk schools station police. The NRA’s 225-page report contains dozens of recommendations to improve safety in our schools. Teachers and school administrators have charge of the nation’s students by day. They ought to have the tools to protect them. There is no reason why teachers and administrators cannot responsibly carry guns. Those who do not want to carry guns do not have to be armed, but just a few trained people in a school will act as a deterrent to violence. The evidence of recent years is that schools are the target of violence. They need to be defended.
The sooner we adopt the NRA’s program, the sooner gun violence will end in the nation’s schools. President Obama, Mr. Bloomberg and the rest of the pro-gun-control advocates claim action is exigent. I agree with them, but time-consuming wrangling is of no help. Action that is futile in getting guns out of the hands of violent assailants is no help to those who want an end to the killing of innocents. If the time to act is now — as I think all sane people can agree — the NRA’s program offers hope. How about giving it a try?
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is editor in chief of the American Spectator and adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.