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Letter from the Editor

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Well, we Tennesseans dodged a bullet, didn't we? Or maybe several. The state House of Representatives finally showed some common sense and blocked passage of the proposed "open carry" law that passed the Senate two weeks ago. That bill would have allowed anyone who could legally purchase a gun to carry it on their person at any time, as long as it was visible. Current required safety measures such as a permit, a criminal background check, or gun safety training would have been made a thing of the past.

I was in a Japanese restaurant recently and noticed a guy sitting at the bar. He was eating sushi, of all things, and he had a handgun strapped to his belt. It was a little disconcerting, to be honest, and my first thought was: Why the hell would you need a handgun in a sushi restaurant? But I assumed that at least this guy had a legal right to carry the gun and therefore had at least some level of safety training.

Why anyone but the wackiest of gun fetishists would think it's a good idea to remove even that thin veneer of reassurance and allow almost anyone to impulsively buy a gun and start carrying it around in public is beyond me.

We make sure people know how to drive well enough to obtain a driver's license before letting them take to our public streets in a vehicle. Why shouldn't we do the same for firearms? Yes, I know, gun lovers will claim that carrying a gun is a constitutional right, while driving a car is not. Really? We have a constitutional right to vote, but you don't hear gun nuts screaming about all the measures being put into place by the GOP to limit voting days and hours and require a specific state ID to cast a ballot. Funny how that works.

The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." What part of "well regulated" is confusing? If we can "regulate" who can vote — arguably our most important right — we can certainly regulate gun ownership, at least to the degree of designating who can carry handguns and where.

And let's be real: No one is taking away anyone's guns. Quite the opposite has happened over the past few years. If you want to carry a handgun legally, it's never been so easy to do — certainly no more difficult than getting a driver's license or registering to vote. If you want to buy a rifle or a shotgun or something even more lethal, that's even easier. Your right — and mine — to own and bear arms has never been safer.

But a law that would make it legal and easy for anyone — meth heads, gang members, angry drunks, the mentally ill, the bitter dumped boyfriend — to quickly buy a gun, strap it on, and head out into public is just insane. I'm glad cooler heads prevailed in Nashville. Or I guess I should say, I'm glad someone finally stood their ground.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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