by Steven Hale
The editorial pages at the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the Times half of the Chattanooga Times Free-Press are calling for movement on gun-control measures in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last week.
While the News-Sentinel takes the more general approach, calling for a "national dialogue on how to prevent such mass killings in the future," the liberal side of the TFP points directly at Gov. Bill Haslam, calling him out for his recent comment that he doesn't see "a big need to change things" in Tennessee's gun laws, and imploring him to shut the so-called "gun-show loophole" in Tennessee.
First, from Knoxville, after the jump:
In Tennessee, the Legislature has approved a pilot program for Knox County that would allow judges to order outpatient mental health treatment for adults who are ignoring their voluntary treatment regimens. Based on New York's Kendra's Law, the program aspires to keep mentally ill patients on the path to recovery.
Such laws have been proven to be effective and more jurisdictions should adopt them. Other laws aimed at treating the mentally unstable should be explored as well.
Gun control also must be a part of the equation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that gun possession is an individual right, so there should be no fear or expectation that guns will be banned. The Supreme Court did, however, affirm that reasonable gun control laws are allowed under the Second Amendment.
A discussion of gun control measures — closing the loophole that allows unlicensed dealers at gun shows to sell to people without conducting a background check, for example, or revisiting an assault gun ban — should be discussed.
That's all well and good, but a minor note on a comment earlier in the piece: "But in the coming days — as soon as decorum allows — we must begin a national dialogue on how to prevent such mass killings in the future," the editorial reads. Putting aside how one feels about the importance of "decorum" in these situations — I happen to think far too much self-righteousness has been stroked by those policing when and where a a discussion of the policy context in which these massacres occur can begin — where have the editorial writers at the News-Sentinel been the last several days? Step outside, folks. The "national dialogue" — a term on which I would support a complete ban — is happening.
Which brings us to this, from the Chattanooga Times:
The family of Chattanooga Police Sgt. Tim Chapin can't be laughing over Haslam's witless remark, either. Sgt. Chapin was shot to death last year by a Colorado fugitive, an escaped felon, who after a botched robbery at a Brainerd Road pawn shop was running for his car, where he had stowed a M-4 assault rifle. He had bought that assault weapon just a few days earlier at the R.K. Gun Show in Chattanooga without having to pass a background check that, had it been run, would have shown him to be an escaped felon wanted for fresh armed robbery charges in Colorado.
In fact, Matthews bought the M-4 assault rifle at the gun show from a part-time, unofficial and unlicensed gun dealer, Kevin Dawson. He could have paid Dawson cash for the gun. Instead, he traded three handguns he had stolen in Colorado. Dawson, of course, didn't know Matthews was wanted by Colorado authorities, because, thanks to Tennessee's gun-show loophole, he didn't have to run a background check for the sale. Nor was he interested, even if it were possible, to run a check on the handguns to see if they had been stolen.
Dawson, federal charges subsequently showed, was accustomed to posing as a private seller while, in actuality, he bought and sold guns regularly at weekly gun shows, and out of his car trunk. Were Tennessee's gun laws toughened pertaining to gun shows and private sellers and buyers, and federal laws on gun registration and manufacturers' inventories made more stringent, this sewer of gun sales to criminals could be stanched.
President Barack Obama has also indicated that he would support measures to close the gun-show loophole, as well as those created by other secondary gun markets, where it's estimated up to 40 percent of gun sales take place, though that number is difficult to pin down precisely. The president would also support a ban on high capacity magazines, and the reinstatement of the federal assault weapons ban.
Of course, with the state's teachers armed to the teeth, we won't need to worry about any of that.
Update: Having used up my free articles for the month, I was unable to pull up this editorial earlier this morning. But, by means which I can't divulge, I can now alert you to another piece calling for action after Newtown, from our friends at the Tennessean:
Rather than let another massacre occur, let us try to calmly, but without delay, look at ideas on all sides of the argument that could be implemented without having the endless circular constitutional argument.
• Address the shortcomings in mental-health assessments that could bring attention sooner to individuals who are considered likely to turn to violence.
• Congress should close the “gun-show loophole,” which allows individuals with bad intentions to buy guns without the usual background check.
• Reserve legal possession of high-capacity ammunition magazines for law enforcement and the military — the only entities that may ever need to fire hundreds of rounds in a matter of minutes; and increase the penalty for anyone who sells this ammo to anyone else.
• Review safety standards for gathering places, from schools to houses of worship and, yes, shopping malls.
• And in Tennessee, as Gov. Bill Haslam rightly suggests, any new legislation that would allow guns in the workplace and on school and university campuses should be withdrawn immediately.