Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

The Virginia Tech tragedy is fast becoming over-analyzed in the press, and I hadn’t really planned to go there, other than to express my profound shock and almost complete lack of comprehension of what could drive a person to such depths of despair and destruction.

Then our esteemed Lieutenant Governor told Fox News (later quoted in the Washington Post) with regard to the growing discussion on gun control generated by the tragedy, ".. to be quite frank, I don’t have a lot of time for folks on either side of that issue right now who want to take advantage of a situation like this to ride their political hobby horse.”

Well, if not now, when? I have a feeling that our Lieutenant Governor would like that never to happen.

Some time ago, I wrote a column criticizing pro-gun advocates for attending a Falls Church City Council meeting packing heat in protest of a proposal to ban guns from the council’s meetings. I received more than one hundred emails from around the country slamming me in no uncertain terms – some quite explicit in what they would like to do to me.

I did a mea culpa in the next column, expressing my complete support for the second amendment and my view that the Constitution meant exactly what the framers intended – following Justice Scalia’s view – that all Americans have the right to own single-shot muzzle-loaded muskets.

You can imagine the reaction to that!

So I am not overly anxious to get into another debate. And frankly, the time for debating has long past. It is crucial that we find a way to provide at least a modicum of control over the use of firearms in American society.

I am a big fan of conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks. His analyses of issues, though I don’t always agree with him, are trenchant, well-informed, and remarkably erudite.

Brooks’ column on abortion in last Sunday’s New York Times was right on the mark. We get so involved in the debate – pro or con – that we lose sight of what we are actually talking about, the gradual evolution of a few cells in a woman’s womb to a complete, functioning human being. At some point in that process, the fetus begins to act – be – a fully functioning human being. At that point, very late in a pregnancy, abortion should be prohibited except for the health of the mother. Before that, and certainly in the first term of a pregnancy, the fetus has not yet become a fully functioning human being, no matter what the theologians say, and the rights of the mother take precedence. Abortion should be legal at that point.

I agree with him, and think we can use this model in the consideration of gun control legislation. It avoids the extremes and moves toward the center in the debate. We need to come up with a solution that substantially reduces the number of firearms available in this country, without challenging our “right to bear arms,” whatever that means.

Neither of the extremes would be satisfied with the outcome – but at this point, we need to ignore the extremes. As someone once said, the perfect is the enemy of the possible.

I think it is possible. Is it probable? I hope so. Our health and safety depend upon it.