Opinion » Editorial

The Gun Issue, Again

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Memphians had their own occasion for mourning gun violence this past Friday, when MPD officer Martoiya Lang was slain by gunfire in the course of serving a drug-related warrant, and her partner, William Vrooman, was gravely wounded. Among other things, the incident served as a reminder that the illicit drug trade still provides a livelihood for criminals desperate enough in their flouting of the law to shoot and kill. What underscores the tragedy of the deadly event is that Lang and Vrooman were making what might have seemed a routine marijuana bust at a time when the nation at large is seeing a liberalization of laws regarding the sale and use of the hallucinogenic plant.

We mourn for our gallant first responders, mindful that, as Memphis police director Toney Armstrong pointed out, these courageous men and women risk their lives every day. The officers were, of course, armed against the likelihood of danger, skilled in the use of their weapons, and no doubt properly apprehensive as they carried out their mission.

It was otherwise in the other great gun-related tragedy of last Friday, when a clearly deranged youth in Connecticut, armed with an arsenal of deadly weapons, shot his way into a grade school and massacred 26 people — 20 first-graders and six adult members of the school's staff and faculty — before putting an end to his own miserable and inexplicable existence with a single bullet.

There are numerous people in our society who advocate loosening the regulation of firearms, including members of the Tennessee General Assembly who, stoked by an ever greedier National Rifle Association, want to make it possible for weapons to be kept in locked vehicles in business parking lots. Some legislators actually want to pass "constitutional carry" legislation, making it possible for concealed weapons to be carried anywhere, anytime, by anybody. The theory, such as it is, seems to be that in a climate of worsening violence, packing heat would allow citizens to defend themselves.

Never mind all those complicated discussions about the Second Amendment to the Constitution. For the record, what it says is this: "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." There is no way, in any commonwealth or universe that can be sanely imagined, that 20 little tots in the act of learning the three R's and counting the days to Christmas can be construed as materiel for such a militia. Nor their teachers, either. And even those who, like Officers Lang and Vrooman, who can be so regarded and outfitted, are not thereby made immune from deadly assault.

This is no time for legally expanding the prevalence of high-round capacity, rapid-fire weapons in society. It is clearly time, instead, for imposing such common-sense restrictions on their use as are consistent with the aforesaid Second Amendment. The right to bear arms for some does not supersede the right to liberty for the rest of us from a proliferation of mass-killing weapons that should only be in the hands of the real well-regulated militia.

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