The Countertop Chronicles

"Run by a gun zealot who's too blinded by the NRA" - Sam Penney of

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


NY Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof published a widely read roadmap for the Democratic Party to following on gun control in the future.
Since the Brady Bill took effect in 1994, gun-control efforts have been a catastrophe for Democrats. They have accomplished almost nothing nationally, other than giving a big boost to the Republicans. Mr. Kerry tried to get around the problem by blasting away at small animals, but nervous Red Staters still suspected Democrats of plotting to seize guns.

Moreover, it's clear that in this political climate, further efforts at gun control are a nonstarter. You can talk until you're blue in the face about the 30,000 gun deaths each year, about children who are nine times as likely to die in a gun accident in America as elsewhere in the developed world, about the $17,000 average cost (half directly borne by taxpayers) of treating each gun injury. But nationally, gun control is dead.

So it's time for a fundamentally new approach, emblematic of how Democrats must think in new ways about old issues. The new approach is to accept that handguns are part of the American landscape, but to use a public health approach to try to make them much safer.

The model is automobiles, for a high rate of traffic deaths was once thought to be inevitable. But then we figured out ways to mitigate the harm with seat belts, air bags and collapsible steering columns, and since the 1950's the death rate per mile driven has dropped 80 percent.

He then lists a number of steps to be taken
  • Make guns babyproof and incorporate more safeties to prevent their accidental misuse.

  • Require magazine safties so a gun cannot be fired without one.

  • Smart guns.

  • More triggerlocks

  • National Database

Yeah, right. This is my response to him.

Mr. Kristof,

First, let me congratulate you on being, in my opinion, one of only two New York Times columnist with a shred of credibility left (The other, of course, being Mr. Safire. Sadly Mr. Friedmann, who I used to respect tremendously, transformed into a rabid and illogical partisan over the last few months). While I rarely agree with you on most policy issues, I find your columns for the most part thought provoking and have the sense that your ideas come from deeply held convictions. The convictions are the same ones most "red staters" (why are we red and blue staters and not simply diverse Americans with different views?) fail to find in any of the Democratic party's major national figures. While not nearly as religious as some of my neighbors, I have been especially struck by your columns over the past three or four years on the role of faith in the lives of most Americans and your experiences growing up on a farm and can see the impact of your upbringing and those values in your reports on teenage prostitution in Asia and genocide in Africa.

That said, I wanted to take a moment to respond to this mornings column on gun control.

I agree with you that the Democratic party has suffered terribly because of its deep seated opposition, and its unpersuasive post hac rationalizations for that opposition, to the most important right conveyed by the bill of rights: the individual right of self defense. However, until there is a concerted and very public effort by the party to drive out its most divisive and offensive members in a fashion similar to the Republican party's rejection and ouster of Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, and Trent Lott, little the Democrats say will have any impact in "fly over land." Some might argue this election was determined months ago when John Kerry returned from the primary campaign trail to cast what might have been his only vote of the year for renewal of the fraudulent and ineffective so called assault weapons ban. The damage Mr. Kerry did to his campaign, when afterward he posed for a photograph of himself and the Democratic party's "murderers row" embracing in a victorious hug, was devestating.

I also agree with you that society should, generally, strive to improve the world around us, including the safety of the products we use. However, I think your suggested course of action will be an unmitigated disaster, both for the democratic party as well as humanity. First, most people will see right through any attempt to regulate the design of firearms, and allowing the Consumer Product Safety Commission oversight over firearms, as nothing short than a backhanded attempt to banning them. The specter of tort liability keeps firearms with fatal design flaws off the market. Even with passage of the Firearms Manufacturers Protection Act (I assume some version of the bill will pass in the coming Congress), tort lawyers will still be able to sue for negligent design flaws. However, current designs are simply not flawed and the 60+ million americans who own firearms are well aware of this fact (though I assume that most New York Times readers are, nor are they firearms owners). Furthermore, your suggestions amount to what I consider the most dangerous design flaw in the 500 year history of firearms. As anyone who has ever had even the slightest bit of firearms training knows, the first and most important rule of gun safety is to assume every gun is loaded. The introduction of any device with the sole purpose of reducing, by even the slightest amount, the awareness of an individual handling a firearm is outrageous. As you are surely aware, if not handled in a safe and careful manner at all times, a firearm has the potential to cause devastating injury. Do you really believe the most prudent course of action is to tell the public that they can forget decades of gun and hunter safety training simply because a mechanical device (which will fail) tells them a weapon is safe?

I urge you to reassess your position on this issue.


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