Gun issue needs rational debate

The public clamor and letters to the editor pertaining to gun control nearly have gotten out of hand.

Over the last couple of weeks, The News and Sentinel has been receiving ever-increasing hostility toward opposition to any action that might be conceived in any manner as control of any type of firearm, ammunition or ammunition magazine, let alone any outright ban on possession of such.

Some of the letters easily could be interpreted as threatening the lives of any local, state and/or national officials supporting any type of gun control. At least one other letter stated any political official supporting gun control should be charged and convicted of treason before being hanged on public television. Still others are advocating the violent overthrow of government if any gun control is adopted.

Healthy debate on public topics is good for the nation and brings to light varying views, positions and philosophies. But, such discussion and letters that are little more than outright threats and do little more than try to incite the populous to riot, kill and or revolt are not healthy.

Consideration of publishing such letters can be seen in two ways:

* They should be ignored because they are veiled and/or open threats and do little more than encourage violence;

* The general public needs to know exactly how extreme the positions are of some in the pro-gun community.

The open hostility in the letters leaves the question open as to whether they should be published, do they fulfill any worthwhile purpose, advance any meaningful discussion, present any reasoned opinion or are they little more than rants and threats by those the general public possibly should fear? Should the public be frightened that some of those with such hardcore, violent views admit owning weapons and threaten to use them against elected officials and supporters of gun control? Do such hardcore, vocal views help or hurt the pro-gun lobby’s effort to defend the Second Amendment and the private ownership of firearms by law-abiding citizens?

A recent AP poll indicated 60 percent of the American population favors some level of gun control specifically aimed at military-style weapons. Does than mean 40 percent of the population believes gun control is acceptable as it is or does it mean the devil is in the details pertaining to the extent and enforcement of existing and/or future gun control measures?

Discussion of gun control in a calm, logical, non-emotional, non-political manner not driven by the self-serving NRA and profit-driven gun manufacturers needs to take place, but getting the emotional, political and profiteering elements out of the discussion always have been the main obstacles to that discussion and undoubtedly will continue to be so.

There are no easy answers to the availability of guns in the United States. If there were, the issue would have been settled decades ago. But the issues must be discussed calmly, without the vile threats and advocation of violence written in letters to the editor and on Internet websites.

We must remember we are a nation of laws and while we have freedom of speech that freedom ends when making violent threats and advocating the violent overthrow of the nation.

Contact Jim Smith at