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Early January in Arkansas' odd-numbered years is almost certain to feature political observers and journalists attempting to predict the road ahead as the state's 135 legislators count the days to the next regular session of the General Assembly.

We're less than a week away from the session, in which lawmakers new and old will sling 2,500 to 3,000 new laws against the legislative wall to see what might stick. Get ready, Arkansans: We're going to see important pieces of law-making. And, if history is any indication, right alongside the important stuff will be the inane, the unnecessary and the downright bad bills.

What’s the point?

Arkansas lawmakers can demonstrate their skills and sincerity by giving consideration to reasonable measures designed to protect young people from harm.

Readers saw in Sunday's paper a prime example of why Arkansas' statutory sausage-making isn't always a process one wants to see. A state representative from the city of Trumann (northeast Arkansas) filed two bills at the behest of two gentlemen who don't live in Arkansas and whose backgrounds provide little reason that their recommendations should be listened to. And yet the local lawmaker took in their dubious ideas hook, line and sinker, filing the necessary paperwork to have the bills put before his colleagues.

Is that what passes for sincere legislative discernment these days? It showed up in my email box, so it must be legit, right?

Well, we suppose that's why there's a process in place to weed such measures out. Let's hope the lawmakers who will descend on the state Capitol in Little Rock next week take a skeptical view of legislation and vote yes only when they know it will make a positive difference for Arkansas.

If in doubt, in other words, don't just jump on the bandwagon. No law is most often preferable to bad law.

We're told the session will feature a robust discussion on some gun legislation. What else is new? But this time it won't be Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville pushing to expand concealed carry. He was shown the exit doors by Fayetteville area voters, replaced by Democrat Denise Garner.

What will the gun legislation look like? If we tried to hit that target, we're sure we'd miss.

But here's what we'd appreciate: Let's not have everyone retreat into their respective corners right out of the starting blocks.

Oh, we get it. There's a Second Amendment. And there are those who want to see a dramatic reduction in the number of guns in people's hands. As long as that's parameters of debate, nobody will accomplish anything.

In between, we hope state lawmakers can zone in on more fundamental questions: How can public school students be protected from anyone who would want to do them harm? And what can lawmakers do to address criminal behaviors involving guns rather than blanket changes that place burdens on law-abiding gun owners?

How about addressing legislation that has a chance to prevent carnage?

Even the most impassioned advocate for the Second Amendment and unencumbered ownership of guns can, we hope, embrace limitations specifically targeted to people at high risk of hurting themselves and others. Don't view efforts to address that as a fight to save the Second Amendment. As long as every reaction is viewed as an absolute defense of the Second Amendment, little can be done to protect people from the wrongdoers everyone would like to stop. Protect the fundamental right to bear arms, but look for ways that legislation can deal with those who have or would do harm.

We'd like to believe there's common ground on saving people from harm. Whether that can be found depends a lot on the skills and intellectual honesty of lawmakers.

Wouldn't it be nice if Arkansas found innovative ways to protect its young people even while respecting people who are gun owners? "Arkansas leads on protecting its young," would be a nice headline.

Commentary on 01/08/2019

Print Headline: Worth a shot

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