Politicians should listen to constituents on all issues, including gun safety

March 19, 2013

The message is simple and to the point: “Attn Politicians Hands Off Our Guns.”

The Hudson Management sign on Route 1 southbound north of Lewes is seen by hundreds if not thousands of people a day.

It’s an effective message, easily grasped by motorists as they whiz by. Not like some of the overly complicated political signs we saw in the last election.

But it doesn’t seem accurate.

First, let’s look at the second part of the message: Hands Off Our Guns.

None of Gov. Jack Markell’s proposed gun safety laws would take guns away from people. Even the proposed ban on military-style rifles, such as the Bushmaster AR-15, would allow current owners to keep their firearms. The vast majority of firearms would not be affected in any way.

I also take issue with the first part of the message: Attn Politicians.

It takes aim, so to speak, at politicians, which is a good strategy. They make a convenient target. Nobody likes politicians. (Actually, I do, because I think most of them are trying to do their best in a job that is next to impossible, but I might be in the minority on this one.)

Politicians, however, didn’t start the recent movement toward gun safety laws. Many would rather avoid the fight, knowing full well the influence of the NRA.

They are responding to the outrage of constituents in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn.

Polls show overwhelming support for measures such as closing the loophole that allows gun show firearm sales without background checks. Polls also show strong, if not as overwhelming, support for banning high-capacity magazines and military-style rifles. (I checked a collection of national polls.)

In a democracy, it’s only natural for politicians to reflect the wishes of their constituents, so it seems odd to attack them for doing their job.

That’s why I think the real message - while ostensibly meant for politicians - is directed toward fellow citizens: Don’t even talk about gun safety laws.

But if a majority of the people favor certain laws, politicians should most definitely pay attention.

Other bills likely to confuse issue

Gov. Markell’s gun safety proposals aren’t the only ones being considered. Republican politicians are also responding to the issue. Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, has introduced a bill that would increase minimum sentences for gun violations for people who are prohibited from owning firearms.

It would, for example, increase from one to two years the sentence for illegal gun possession if the person had previously been convicted of a violent felony.

This sounds like it would touch on the margins of the issue, without making much difference.

Sen. Gregg Lavelle, R-Sharpley, reportedly is introducing a bill that would make it a crime to sell a gun to a person prohibited from owning firearms.

No background check would be required. The responsibility would rest on the seller.

This would make little practical difference. Few private sellers would conduct background checks, leaving the loophole wide open.

But these and other bills are likely to continue being introduced. Even bills that have little chance of passing can serve to confuse the issue.

What did Jefferson say?

Another common way of confusing an issue is to quote a founding father. Here’s one making the rounds, supposedly from Thomas Jefferson: “The beauty of the Second Amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”

A variation reads: “The people will not understand the importance of the Second Amendment until it is too late.”

According to The Jefferson Monticello website, which researched Jefferson’s writings, there is no evidence he said anything of the sort. The earliest known appearance for the quote, amazingly enough, was in 2007.

Not that Jefferson didn’t support the Second Amendment. He did, and so do many people who support gun safety measures.

Beware texting before second cup of coffee

Recently, I was out looking for an inexpensive TV. I found one for $198 and texted my wife to let her know.

At least that’s what I thought I did. Turns out, I texted Steve Smyk, our newly elected representative from the 20th District, who no doubt was surprised I felt it necessary to inform him on my impending purchase.

But he sent back a message saying it was fine, as long as I wasn’t buying from some guy out of the back of his van.

Ah, the wonders - or should I say blunders - of technology.

  • A number of accomplished writers will be appearing in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.

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