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Saturday, January 19 , 2019, 3:37 am | Fair 46º


Susan Estrich: Here We Go Again

Fifty-nine dead this time, according to the latest reports.

The collective handwringing; the thoughts and prayers; the stories of lives tragically lost crowding the news; funerals to come; politicians spouting mournful messages.

And then what? We know the answer. Then nothing.

What is wrong with us? How many more innocent people must die in these horrific massacres before Congress and the White House have the guts to stand up to the minority of a minority who believe that people need assault weapons for personal use?

I am not trying to repeal the Second Amendment. 

If you are a hunter, hunt.

If you own a gun to protect yourself, that is your right.

But no one needs an assault weapon to hunt, or to protect family members against intruders.

No law-abiding citizen need fear reasonable rules that treat guns as being at least as dangerous as cars.

This is what I have never understood.

No one protests outside the Department of Motor Vehicles that the inspectors are trying to take our cars away, that if we let them require us to get licenses before we can drive, it's a slippery slope toward forcing us back onto bicycles.

No one contends that requiring us to register our cars is a violation of our constitutional rights, or that mandatory insurance is an unconscionable limit on the constitutionally protected freedom to travel. 

Reasonable regulation, limits on weapons that no law-abiding citizen needs: Take a poll and most Americans will agree with that.

Try to get legislation through Congress and you'll get your head handed to you.

And we all know why.

Years ago, I was scheduled to do one of those television food fights with a leader of the National Rifle Association — that is, until the TV booker called and said the man wouldn't appear with me.

Not because I don't understand the issue. Not because I didn't have the background knowledge to be able to discuss it. And not because I disagreed with him.

He wanted to debate someone who disagreed with him — on everything.

He wanted to debate someone who would take guns away from law-abiding citizens, no matter what kind of guns, no matter what the Second Amendment says.

The problem with me was that I was "too moderate," too reasonable.

Heaven help him if we were to have a reasonable discussion. Heaven help him if he had to explain why people need assault weapons, why people have to submit to background checks to get jobs but not guns, why they need licenses to drive cars but not to shoot someone. 

The NRA thrives on polarization. If they can convince you that the choice is between confiscating guns and having no regulation of any sort, they have a chance of winning. 

So they pick their opponents carefully and then caricature them as anti-American, anti-Constitution, anti-freedom crazies. 

And nothing happens. The NRA wins. More death. More empty sentiments of regret. More funerals. More bloodshed. 

The conventional wisdom is that the only people who care enough about guns to vote the issue vote with the NRA. The fact that they may only represent a small sliver of the population doesn't matter if they are the only ones voting the issue.

The rest of us, the reasonable middle, need to stand up and be counted.

If the murder of so many innocents in Las Vegas is not enough to bring us to our feet, not enough to give courage to the fearful (fearful of losing) in Congress, then I don't know what will. 

May some good come of this horrible tragedy. For all our sakes.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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