Magazine article Insight on the News

'Great Silent Majority' Will Decidegun Control Debate

Magazine article Insight on the News

'Great Silent Majority' Will Decidegun Control Debate

Article excerpt

On the thoroughfare of U.S. politics, the center lane is usually the widest.

Essentially conservative by instinct, a majority of Americans are uncomfortable with abortion and would prefer that it neither be banned nor treated as permissively as it is. Likewise, a majority may subscribe in theory to the idea that individuals should be self-reliant; in practice, though, we incline to sustain those who won't do for themselves as a cost of assisting those who cannot.

There are two little words, however, that uttered even softly will blow up the barn: gun control.

President Clinton told Attorney General Janet Reno a year ago to look into national registration or licensing of handguns. With so many pots boiling over on his ideological stove, that one was pushed to a back burner. With the composition of the new Congress, however, a resuscitated initiative would probably cause a huge blip on the radar screen.

It is a gospel truth on the right that individuals should be allowed to own firearms, but there is a spreading sense that public order trumps that right. So volatile is the collision of perspective that otherwise amiable folks go ballistic (so to speak) when the topic gets loose.

As our population grows evermore densely clustered, and fear of crime (genuine or exaggerated) pervades the elbow-to-elbow urban environment, the traditional sense of the gun as tool and as symbol is being corroded.

There are still a lot of Americans who earned pocket money as youngsters by reducing the gopher and groundhog population with .22s. As vanished as that world may be, the mystique of the gun endures -- and mystiques should not be casually dismissed. The context is different, to be sure, and self-defense is the contemporary theme of those who resist the seductive song of gun control.

It may come about, one of these years, that Americans decide to sacrifice a fundamental right in the pale hope of easy security and accept wide restrictions on firearms. If that percolates, the honest way to accomplish it will be to repeal the Second Amendment, rather than nibble at the Bill of Rights.

The Second Amendment is, of course, at the epicenter of this seismic argument. If you march with the liberal legion, it is axiomatic that the amendment refers only to maintenance of a militia and is thus an anachronism. To those not of that persuasion, the Second Amendment is hallowed as securing the right to individual protection by force of arms if necessary. …

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