An editorial in today’s Salem Statesman Journal and one in the Everett Herald suggest a Fourth Estate disconnect on the Second Amendment and gun owner privacy that, were the issue anything else but guns, the same editorials might be screaming for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s scalp as she prepared to sign Senate Bill 941 today.
The Statesman Journal quotes from editorials in several other newspapers, all supportive of the new expanded background check measure. The Everett newspaper, which chided Second Amendment advocate Alan Gottlieb – chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms – over a judge’s ruling last week that dismissed a federal lawsuit against provisions of Initiative 594.
What the gun prohibition lobby, and even the newspaper editorial board, fails to understand is that the lawsuit was dismissed because Judge Benjamin Settle believed the plaintiffs lacked standing. The lawsuit wasn’t dismissed because the judge thought there was no merit to the issues raised. Overlooked – deliberately or carelessly – in most coverage of last week’s decision was the passage in which Judge Settle acknowledged that it may be unfair for plaintiffs to “actually be prosecuted or under actual or immediate threat of prosecution before the Court may address the constitutionality of a statute.”
Down in Oregon, the Statesman Journal carried some quotes that suggest its colleagues elsewhere don’t “get it.” The Dalles Chronicle observed, “…the private gun sale market may be the last refuge of would-be gun owners who know they are ineligible, because of their criminal or mental health history, to buy a gun in Oregon by the other two means. We should not maintain this hands-off marketplace for them.”
The “private gun sale market” is hardly the “last refuge” for criminals or nuts to get guns. There are burglaries of residences and even gun shops, theft from parked cars, including police vehicles, black market trading of guns for drugs. There are all kinds of ways to get guns illegally that have nothing to do with background checks.
The Medford Mail Tribune is critical of Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel for saying he will not enforce the law. The newspaper argues that “it’s not his job to pick and choose which laws he enforces.” How about immigration laws? Should he arrest and detain identified illegal aliens for deportation? Should he require people to provide evidence of their immigration status? Should he arrest marijuana smokers who have firearms, because federal law still says pot is an illegal controlled substance?
The Eugene Register Guard noted that “Polls show that a majority of Oregon voters want expanded background checks. They understand, despite gun-right groups’ claims, that universal background checks are the most effective way to keep guns out of the wrong hands.” Background checks didn’t keep guns out of the hands of people like Kip Kinkel or Jacob Tyler Roberts, both of whom stole the guns they used. Kinkel shot up Thurston High School in Springfield and Roberts killed two people at the Clackamas Town Center.
Besides, since when are constitutional rights – in this case privacy and the right to keep and bear arms – subject to public opinion polls? How would the Register Guard react to a poll on whether it should publish certain information, or submit stories about government officials in advance for their approval?
If people commit crimes with guns, punish them. Don’t penalize everybody. Members of the Northwest Firearms forum are talking about SB941 today, and they’re not happy.
Today, the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility went after three Evergreen State lawmakers it accuses of trying to gut I-594 during this year’s legislative session. The group is targeting Reps. Elizabeth Scott and Graham Hunt, and Sen. Don Benton. Scott even co-sponsored a bill to repeal I-594.
The WAGR post on Facebook accuses all three of being “out of touch with the voters of Washington State.” That’s not true. They’re definitely in touch with 853,990 citizens who voted against I-594 last fall. They’re apparently in touch with their constituents. Now, don’t those people deserve a voice?
The Facebook page has a toll-free phone number that, if dialed, actually rings through to the Legislative Hotline in Olympia. But it is not the traditional 800-562-6000. People are asked by WAGR to call the other number to hold these lawmakers accountable. Gun owners will be calling the traditional number and passing along messages to Scott, Hunt and Benton about the great job they are doing.
The Everett Herald editorial calls a background check a “relatively minor inconvenience.” It says “the reason we have laws on the books is to help everyone understand where the lines are drawn.” Okay, then, at what point does one draw the line between an “inconvenience” and an outrage? At what point do law-abiding citizens say “no more” when their exercise of a constitutionally-affirmed fundamental civil right results in them being treated with suspicion, as though they are criminals who must prove their innocence, not the other way around?
Got an opinion about this column? Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.