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"Too soon" after the tragedy has become perpetual. Appeals to wait sound like an echo.

The contention that "now is not the time" to discuss gun control after the latest gun massacre still had some efficacy the previous half-dozen times. Now that potency is more than spent. Overuse killed it.

I consider myself a colder fish than most. "Too soon" appeals lost all effect on me years ago. Now, though, even a cold fish like me gets offended by knee-jerk demands for time to grieve. "Decent interval" claims are clearly just stalling. Waiting for the most recent repulsion to subside and then doing nothing is no way to defend a constitutional right.

I take great pride in my long, spotless record of speaking up for the Bill of Rights -- all 10 amendments, including the Second Amendment right to bear arms. When devout Muslims want to build mosques or athletes want to kneel during the anthem, for instance, I support them and their First Amendment right. I have even defended, in principle, Nazis marching around while waving flags.

An old saying claims the Second Amendment ensures all the others. Without the people's right to bear arms, the theory goes, the other provisions of the Bill of Rights stand defenseless. That is no longer true. If I was an enemy of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment has become the chief point of vulnerability I would attack.

I do not want any part of the Bill of Rights amended, undermined or repealed. That is a precedent I dread. But if any amendment is making itself vulnerable to such drastic action, it is the one with a wide-open interpretation that just helped enable the killing of 58 innocent people in Las Vegas in a lengthening string of such massacres. Meanwhile, the value of the Second Amendment as a guarantor against tyranny erodes more every day. Personal firearms do not do squat against drones, for instance.

When someone who is not a gun dealer buys 33 guns in a year and also buys bump stocks -- devices that greatly increase a gun's rate of fire at some cost to accuracy -- that should be something allowed to show up on some law enforcement agency's radar. The Las Vegas shooter made such purchases. During that same year, I could not go to any drug store and buy certain sorts of cold medicine without law enforcement being notified.

The National Rifle Association's willingness to consider changing the law on bump stocks is a good thing. Millions of us would not have needed hindsight to see that. Note, however, that this would change the law on an accessory. The gun itself, which is sacred to the NRA, would remain untouched. So, if the NRA can stop new regulations there, it will have served its masters well.

Changing the laws should not stop with an accessory. Creating a federal database to track gun sales has majority support even among Republicans, Pew Research Center polling finds. Across a broad variety of polls, 90 percent of Americans want universal background checks on gun purchases, not just ones at gun shops. What is constitutional at a gun shop is constitutional at a firearms show or any other private sale. Also, banning high-capacity magazines has clear majority support and 47 percent support among Republicans, the Pew poll also shows.

In closing, allow me to quote myself from Oct. 10, 2015, from several mass shootings ago: "It is past time for Second Amendment supporters to admit the 1996 ban on funding research on gun deaths was a serious mistake. Without research -- even bad research that can be rebutted -- a debate on guns becomes purely emotional. You will ultimately lose an emotional argument when the other side has dead students and church-goers on its side."

We can now add dead and wounded country music concert attendees to the list.

"We are going to get to a tipping point someday," I went on. "If we have not found a way to effectively and constitutionally stop these shootings by then, we are going watch while something is done that is unconstitutional and ineffective." Thoughts and prayers will not stop it.

Commentary on 10/07/2017

Print Headline: The right that risks all others

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