“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”
How many times do we get to hear that phrase this year? This month?
The above quote looks like the Missoulian’s answer to gun violence. The editorial board doesn’t like the proposed ordinance to expand background checks on all gun sales and transfers within the city limits. It offers no viable alternatives, just platitudes. Days after the shooting deaths of ten in Roseburg, Ore., did the irony of this opinion piece escape the editorial board?
First, the editorial says the ordinance would create “a wedge that only serves to drive Missoulians further apart on an issue which should unite us.” And what issue should unite us? That we abhor gun violence? Then do something about it. The ordinance is one small step in the right direction.
Or you can pander to Gary Marbut’s MSSA and the NRA and their threats of a lawsuit. Is that who you want to side with on the issue of gun violence?
The editorial states that “the efficacy of the background check system itself is a matter for debate, especially in light of recent tragic failures.” Then make the background checks work. This New York Times article illustrates the flaws in the system that allowed Dylan Roof, who shot and killed nine people in a South Carolina church, to get a gun. The loopholes must be closed and the sloppiness has to stop.
The editorial also claims that most criminals get their guns from family and friends, which may be the case. But most of these mass killings aren’t the work of convicted felons but of the mentally unstable, and this law could prevent gun sales to “adjudicated mental incompetents” (the term used in Montana Codes Annotated). And if it also keeps firearms out of the occasional gangster’s hands, so much the better.
Then the Missoulian turns it into a pocketbook issue:
“Missoula also doesn’t need to drive away the legitimate business generated by gun shows, which draw visitors from around the region and regularly pack venues such as the Adams Center. A fair portion of Montanans consists of hunters, collectors and self-defense advocates. Do we really want to send them to other nearby towns?”
Give me a break. Are the gun shows going to fold up shop or are they going to have background checks in place so people can purchase firearms? If the folks putting on the shows refuse to do background checks, I’m fine with them taking their business elsewhere. I doubt this will kill the Missoula economy.
But the most specious argument is that the ordinance would be “costly and inconvenient.” I recently did some remodeling work. I had to get a permit from the city. It was costly and inconvenient, but I assume it was required for public safety (to keep me from burning down my house because of a faulty wiring job, for example). Is it too much to ask that someone purchasing a gun has to go through something as simple as a background check?
This is the Missoulian’s solution:
“If those pushing for background checks truly want these laws to be effective and not just symbolic, the place to pursue such action is at the state and federal level. Our city councilors would do better to focus their time and attention on matters that will actually make a difference for Missoulians.”
I would venture that our city councilors have more moral courage than most of those at the state legislature or in Congress, but Mayor John Engen makes the point:
“We have a responsibility here to take a small action – and this is a small action – that could make a difference in our community. I would suggest that our Legislature ought to consider this, but it’s not, so we’re left in the box of trying to figure this out for ourselves. This might be hard, but I think it’s worth it.”
Councilman Jon Wilkins said it best, “If it makes a difference for one life, I’m going to support it.”