EDITORIAL/GOP's gun lurch to the left
Wednesday, February 27, 2013 3:20 AM
Mississippi Republicans are missing a golden opportunity to eliminate gun registration altogether. Instead, they're opting for draconian action that would seal public records and, in effect, create a secret gun registry.
Sounds a lot like what the Obama administration has in mind.
Why should any government maintain records on gun owners, much less secret records in Mississippi?
If the Republicans pushing this legislation truly want to protect gun owner information from abuse, they should elminate registration, which under current law only involves concealed-carry permits.
Rather than addressing that root problem of gun registration, populists leading the party have manufactured a crisis with the aid of their friends over at talk radio. Like Mr. Obama and the sequester, they are fear mongering, mostly.
Gun owners are going to be exposed by newspapers or bloggers and robbed, they cry. That following a liberal New York newspaper publishing the names of gun owners in the wake of the Newtown school killings.
To be sure, we're not for publishing any names of gun owners in the newspaper or anywhere else, but if the government is going to maintain records, those records, at the very least, should be open for public inspection.
There is nothing inherently conservative about gun control, so why Republicans support making a bad gun registration law worse is a mystery.
Just as U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is misguided with his support of Hagel for Defense Secretary, some Republicans in the Legislature are mixed up on guns.
The citizen part of the inspection we're insisting upon is the most important aspect of transparency, not media access. Citizens should have a right to the records government keeps on them. Even criminals have rights to inspect their criminal records, so this law puts the rights of criminals above the rights of gun owners.
Without accountability, how is the public going to know if government is regulating gun permits properly?
Secrecy is the ultimate mode of government regulation and control, often going unnoticed by the citizenry until it's too late.
There is a far greater potential for damage if the regulatory regime malfunctions - and government by its nature is apt to fail.
A secret gun registry in Mississippi is bound to be rife with abuse. Just look at the Bryant administration's mishandling of the current open records law.
The Department of Public Safety has refused to fulfill records requests made by a newspaper and a blogger. Agree with the records requests or not, - and we don't - it's the law of the land and the state has an obligation to fulfill those requests.
Republican Sen. Will Longwitz of Madison, a strong proponent of the bill, admitted Tuesday that the gun control legislation was being expedited to prevent the current requests from being fulfilled.
Sen. Kelvin Butler, a Democrat from McComb, pressed Longwitz on the issue during the Senate Judiciary A Committee meeting at the Capitol. "Is that what you're saying?" he asked Longwitz.
"Yes," Longwitz replied. "That's what I'm saying."
So much for the rule of law if the end justifies the means.
Let us be clear, these records will not be private and secure. People in the government will have widespread access to them. They could even be shared with the federal government. But the people without access will be the public, including the gun owners themselves.
Lt. Gov. Reeves could emerge as the real statesman if he tells the Governor to take another hike and wrestles an 11th-hour compromise that serves the greater public good.
The Legislature could close records and they will have taken the liberal gun bait hook, line and sinker. They will have fallen for expanded governent regulation and control unwittingly like lambs to the slaughter.
Or, they can eliminate gun registration altogether and send an even stronger message to Washington that Mississippi is a Second Amendment state that refuses to trample the First.
Conservatives supporting gun registration have lost their Constitutional moorings. Our hope is Lt. Gov. Reeves can gently shepherd them back to the fold and to their senses.