Doug Wilson

Gun violence debate heats up in imperfect world

Posted: Jun. 18, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Jun. 18, 2017 12:21 am

Last week's attack on U.S. House members by a shooter in Virginia and another mass shooting in a San Francisco UPS facility will revive the ongoing debate between gun rights supporters and opponents.

Neither side will convince the other.

The debate never really ends. It just becomes more visible and vocal after a shooting. And the shooting in Alexandria, Va., captured lots of attention when House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and a lobbyist were critically wounded, three others had minor injuries and the shooter died after police officers returned fire.

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch praised the Capitol security detail, saying that "good guys with guns kept this from getting worse." She said the organization would continue pushing for gun-friendly legislation at the state and federal level, arguing that new gun-control measures are not the answer.

"Evil is real, evil exists and it makes no sense that the good cannot protect themselves against evil," Loesch told the Associated Press. "Those policies have failed where they have been implemented."

Among those who spoke out for gun control and safety was Gabrielle Giffords, a member of the U.S. House who was shot by an attacker at a public event in 2011.

Giffords, a co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, wrote in the Washington Post: "We know, as always, that no one law could prevent a shooting like this. But we also know that we must acknowledge a problem: an unacceptable rate of gun violence in this country. And we must acknowledge that a deadly problem like this brings a responsibility to find solutions."

Unfortunately, those solutions are illusive.

In a perfect world, there would be easy answers. But we don't live in a perfect world.

There is no such thing as perfect liberty or perfect safety -- unless a person lives as a hermit and never comes into contact with other people.

There are lots of "what if" scenarios that are not very helpful. There's no benefit to wondering what it would be like if there were no guns. They do exist and aren't going away.

Likewise, it's useless to speculate about what it would be like if everyone was armed so that the armed bad guys had no advantage.

Both groups -- those who push for greater liberty and those who want perfect safety -- can lay claim to rights and freedoms. The right to possess firearms is promised in the U.S. Constitution. The "unalienable rights" of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are expressed in the Declaration of Independence. (This second one is not from the Constitution, but U.S. law consistently protects these ideals.)

It will be an unsatisfying debate for both sides.

Responsible gun owners will tell those who want to tighten gun laws that the world would not be safer if their guns or gun rights were taken.

Those who fear firearms or want protection from them will not understand why others want to own, carry or use weapons.

The problem lies with a third group: Those who break the law or use guns irresponsibly. And even when some members of this group are caught, killed or imprisoned, there are others ready to take their place.