Trigger-happy protest aims to stifle dialogue

Gun owners who are calling statements by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to entertain a discussion about firearms a “knee-jerk reaction” to the mass shooting of children at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., should know all about knee-jerk reactions.

Their plan, to hold a gun rally outside of Manchin’s Eastern Panhandle office to protest the senator’s very nonspecific statements, is knee jerk and more, and appears designed more to shut down discussion than it is to engage in dialogue with gun control advocates or with lawmakers toward a solution about gun violence in America.

Indeed, if Manchin — who has not proposed anything yet — has been specific about anything it’s his longtime support for gun ownership and the esteem within which he holds the Second Amendment. It’s disingenuous for gun owners to suddenly assert that they don’t know if Manchin is with them or against them. Come on.

Their rhetoric echoes disturbingly the rhetoric of many gun owners, who in the wake of last month’s shooting, seem more willing to cling to mischaracterizing the positions of their opponents, none of whom have proposed anything remotely similar to what these folks are alleging, that being, banning guns outright, outlawing gun ownership and confiscating firearms.

So far, Manchin’s suggestion — to strengthen regulations regarding the sale of automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines — are very modest, and gun owners would do well to see that as a reasonable place from which to initiate discussions.

They’d do well, too, when they whoop and wail about the imminent threat to their liberties from proposed gun control efforts to keep in mind these words from John Stuart Mill: “… the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

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