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Published: Monday, February 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Extremism erodes chance for change

Comes before us yet again, the debate on firearms.
For years, we've been struggling with an issue that is as capable of rousing emotions and, seemingly, as intractable as abortion.
But then came Newtown, and there was a window of time during which almost everyone recognized that something or some things needed to change. That common ground had to be found in the sea of distrust that now exists regarding the ownership and use of firearms.
Sadly, I believe that window is closing and that the whole discussion is, yet again, going nowhere.
The reason I say this is that there's all too much evidence that people on both "sides" are being driven deeper into their respective trenches and that the "No Man's Land" of compromise is becoming wider by the day.
An example: "Citadel communities."
In a recent column in this paper, Sid Schwab spent a few hundred words on such communities being proposed in Idaho. I'd also mentioned them in a column wherein I noted that P.T. Barnum would've enthusiastically approved of the idea.
Sid isn't a believer in them. Nor am I -- for many of the reasons he stated. Another being that, during my time as a gunnery officer on a destroyer in Vietnam, I found it easier to deal with opponents when they were concentrated in one spot.
Cannon fire, if the government is truly coming, really makes an impression on those who occupy a confined area. And this was long before the common use of cruise missiles, laser guided munitions, drones, or what have you.
Too, there's a certain law of combat that states: "If you make it impossible for the bad guys to get in, then you're going to have a hard time getting out." Which made sieges all the rage back when.
The entire idea is best characterized as fantasy.
Another reason for my belief that we're going nowhere is legislative foolishness:
A number of states are coming up with requirements for detachable magazine capacities that vary from a low of eight rounds in one state to a high of 15 in another, with10 rounds seemingly being a common number elsewhere.
The problem remains that, as long as we're talking detachable magazines, none of these will make any difference since the magazines can still be taped together and, then, inserted, fired, and replaced in seconds.
That said, we firearm owners should honestly and constantly ask ourselves why 30 to 100 round magazines are necessary in a civilized society. We basically won World War II with the M1 Garand -- a semi-automatic rifle with an eight round en-bloc magazine.
Then there are other legislative proposals such as the one in Missouri "that would force gun owners to either surrender or destroy weapons including semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines and semi-automatic pistols with a fixed magazine that can shoot more than 10 rounds before being reloaded." Gun owners who did not comply within 90 days would be charged with a Class C felony.
This led to a counter proposal that would make "any member of the (Missouri) general assembly who proposes legislation that further restricts an individual's right to bear arms ... guilty of a class D felony."
Neither bill, thankfully, was expected to pass.
In our own state, there's SB 5737 which initially included the following: "In order to continue to possess an assault weapon that was legally possessed on the effective date of this section, the person possessing shall ... safely and securely store the assault weapon. The sheriff of the county may, no more than once per year, conduct an inspection to ensure compliance with this subsection."
Imagine that. Elected representatives proposing annual "inspection" visits by the constabulary into the private homes of citizens who have broken no laws whatsoever.
The reaction to this -- from even staunch liberals -- was such that even the prime sponsor, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, admitted (likely with reluctance) that it was probably unconstitutional and removed the wording.
Still, the troubling thing is that such a proposal even made it onto paper. Care to guess how much trust that bit of tomfoolery infused into firearm owners in this state?
I'd like to believe that effective measures are forthcoming, that the issues of the troubled individuals behind the triggers and the effects of video games and other media will receive the same attention as magazines and semi-automatic rifles, but I don't.
And, so, the "trench warfare" will continue -- and nothing will likely change.
Which, as a society, is our loss.

Larry Simoneaux lies in Edmonds. Send comments to: larrysim@comcast.net

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Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor: jbauer@heraldnet.com

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer: cmacpherson@heraldnet.com

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