On lawmaking, gun culture and ‘ceding some rational points’

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]evving up for the start of the 2014 Colorado legislative session tomorrow, Republican lawmakers eyeing Election Day in November are saying they want to revisit the gun-law debates that marked last year’s session. Those debates were intense and deeply felt and often far short of rational. They featured talk-radio exaggeration, name-calling, hallway shouting matches, gun-industry giveaways and threats of rape, assault and murder.

For Colorado politics followers, Ravi Somaiya’s front-page Sunday New York Times story on the banishment of Dick Metcalf from contemporary gun culture likely held few surprises. Metcalf was until recently one of the top writers for gun publications, a proud gun lover and champion of broad Second Amendment rights. But in October, he wrote a column merely stating the reality that there are limits on all Constitutional rights, including those outlined in the Second Amendment. It was meant to be a jumping off point for discussion. It ended by ruining his career.

As Somaiya put it, “the backlash was swift, and fierce. Readers threatened to cancel subscriptions. Death threats poured in by email. His television program was pulled from the air.”

Sound familiar, Colorado? Here was our version: After the new gun laws passed, the backlash was swift, and fierce. Last spring Magpul gun-magazine manufacturer threatened to leave the state. Death threats poured into the capitol by email. Democratic legislators who supported gun-control bills were recalled from their offices.

Any debate on guns in Denver this year isn’t likely to be any more level-headed. Here’s the key Somaiya dropped into the story that says it all:

[blockquote]“We are locked in a struggle with powerful forces in this country who will do anything to destroy the Second Amendment,” said Richard Venola, a former editor of Guns & Ammo. “The time for ceding some rational points is gone.”[/blockquote]

“The time for ceding some rational points is gone”? Eight paragraphs later, Somaiya delivered this gem, gift-wrapped in parentheses:

[blockquote](Mr. Venola had murder charges against him dismissed in Arizona last year. He said he was defending himself after fatally shooting a neighbor during an argument.)[/blockquote]

You get the idea that the Venolas of the world — on their front lawns in Arizona, at their editorial meetings or in the chambers of the Colorado capitol — have never really been that interested in “ceding some rational points” in discussion or debate.

Breathe deep and let the lawmaking begin.

[ Image by Chris Goodwin.]