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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: It’s just logical

by Brenda Looper | May 10, 2023 at 3:45 a.m.
Brenda Looper

Whataboutism, red herrings, ad hominem attacks and other logical fallacies were alive in the comments that followed my column about recent shootings last week, as well as the attitude that's kept anything from getting done: Criminals won't follow the law, so why punish citizens who do?

By that logic, we don't need any laws at all because they only punish the people who follow them.

This is why I get frustrated sometimes, especially knowing that there are many, many very wise people in this state, and feel the need to drown my frustration in chocolate and head bumps from Boo the Warehouse Cat and fur-nephew Charlie.

Seriously. Make it make sense that people will make any excuse to avoid acknowledging the one common element in all mass shootings. And no, guns can't do anything on their own, but they are tools meant for killing, and we have a system in the United States that allows far-too-easy access to large numbers of, in many cases, legally bought guns.

But new laws wouldn't have prevented these killings, so many have said. They're right, in a way. New laws and more rigorously enforcing current laws might not do anything for all shootings. No one law will serve every situation, and the idea that one should is ludicrous. That doesn't mean it wouldn't prevent others.

Multiple shooters have been poster children for red-flag laws, which would allow a judge to remove access to guns for some individuals at least temporarily. Had Nikolas Cruz been subject to red-flag laws, the Parkland shooting might never have happened. And he's not the only one who could have been stopped.

Is that enough reason to put a law in place? Yes, if it has the potential to save lives and has due-process procedures spelled out.

But the Second Amendment says "shall not be infringed!" Well, no less a conservative authority than the late Justice Antonin Scalia stated in D.C. v. Heller, "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited." [My emphasis.]

While Scalia said the amendment allows individual possession of guns, he also noted: "[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

So yes, government can and does have the right to impose limitations, and in the case of red-flag laws, closing of loopholes, universal background checks, etc., it certainly should for the safety of the majority. (I mean ... unless you really think we don't need all those laws on food and product safety, or labor conditions, or a thousand other things.)

But that guy in Cleveland, Texas, was an illegal alien who'd been deported four times! Sure, but without that gun, none of that would have happened. Immigration status is secondary to the main issue, so let's keep our focus here.

And by the way, if you can't make your case without insulting and bullying others, you don't have a leg to stand on.

No one is going to take all your guns no matter how many times the gun lobby says it (it's almost like they're profiting!), and no one's treading on you by suggesting we tighten up gun laws. One way we could tighten them up is to make them federal rather than state by state since the patchwork of laws poorly serves us (can't buy a gun in one state, just head to another where you can and take it back home).

More guns haven't helped us, and have instead served more to spread fear. If we want to allay that fear, we have to put partisanship aside, keep cool heads, and be willing to tackle the hard tasks and admit that limitations are wise in most things, but perhaps especially gun policy.

Kate Shaw and John Bash, clerks to Justice Paul Stevens and Scalia respectively during the time of the Heller decision, wrote in an essay in The New York Times following the Uvalde massacre: "Nothing in Heller casts doubt on the permissibility of background check laws or requires the so-called Charleston loophole, which allows individuals to purchase firearms even without completed background checks. Nor does Heller prohibit giving law enforcement officers more effective tools and greater resources to disarm people who have proved themselves to be violent or mentally ill, as long as due process is observed. Heller also gives the government at least some leeway to restrict the kinds of firearms that can be purchased--few would claim a constitutional right to own a grenade launcher, for example--although where that line could be constitutionally drawn is a matter of disagreement ... .

"Most of the obstacles to gun regulations are political and policy-based, not legal; it's laws that never get enacted, rather than ones that are struck down ... ."

Why can't we at least try something? To borrow a thought from my colleagues on the opposite page, we can't keep letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. We're past the point where inaction will do anything but make things worse.

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

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