There are two things that you cannot win in Idaho: An argument with someone who is drunk in a bar, and a debate over guns – especially if you’re on the side of imposing more gun control laws.
At my old hometown of Kellogg, where bar discussions can get loud and guns are as common as toothbrushes, it’s easy to lose both of those battles in one night.
Sure, there’s plenty of passion on the other side of the gun debate as well. But most Idahoans, personally and politically, are on the side of gun rights. My late step-father, who lived in Dalton Gardens, based his vote on the gun issue. He could tolerate differences of opinion on education spending, or taxation, but don’t mess with his guns.
I don’t share the same passion. Neither my father nor older brother had an interest in hunting, so I had no interest in the sport. I don’t own a gun, and probably never will. I visited a shooting range in Orofino a few years ago, but have no desire to go back.
So I have nothing at stake personally on the gun-control issue. But I feel the same frustrations as anybody over mass shootings, and I have some empathy for politicians who want to do something – anything to stop the madness. At the same time, I shake my head at the suggestions that more gun laws are the answer. We already have myriad gun laws on the books – including extensive background checks and gun-free zones around schools. Unfortunately, the gun-free zones end up being a safe haven for killers, because no one can fire back.
It’s already against the law to shoot people, but that doesn’t keep deranged people from going on a shooting spree. Deranged people, who seem to be on personal death missions, don’t pay attention to laws, and I doubt if they would be deterred by a few more gun laws.
Politicians aren’t going to be able to figure out what to do about the decay in society, which makes mass shootings a part of the “new normal.” The easy solution is to find a scapegoat, and the NRA is the big target for not pushing for tougher gun laws.
Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, a member of the national NRA board, can predict what President Obama, Hillary Clinton and others will say after every shooting.
“Guns and the NRA are to blame,” he said. “It’s not the person who does the shooting, or the dysfunctional culture, but this group over here. We’re at the apex of that battle The only way to remove firearms is to create a majority opinion that guns are an obsolete, politically incorrect tool that has nothing to do with security, safety and self-determination.”
Try to sell that idea in a bar at Kellogg.
As the debate rages and the frustration grows, nothing gets done in Washington. After the Orlando shooting, Democrats and Republicans presented a series of bills and all failed. House Democrats had a sit-in to force votes on gun control, but don’t count on anything getting done there either. The presidential race is all about building hatred for Clinton and Donald Trump, and both candidates are doing a good job doing that. Both are being painted as evil people, which means we’ll be stuck with a president that masses hate regardless of the outcome. It also means the cultural decay will continue.
When these mass shootings occur, neither Craig nor anyone else at the NRA are popping champagne corks as if they won the World Series. Frustrations are high on both sides of the gun debate. The problem, which was there during Craig’s years in Congress, is what to do about it.
“I’d ask, ‘What can you give me to help in this environment and produce positive results’? We would play that scenario time after time, and there was nothing we can do,” Craig said. “There are no positive results if you take away more individual choice and freedoms.”
It would be nice if Congress could pass a law to make all this go away. But Washington cannot solve all problems.