Hyman: Red herrings in the gun debate

Jan. 26, 2013 @ 12:36 PM

I own three rifles and three shotguns, including the bolt-action .22 that my father gave me when I turned 12.  If the federal government wants to confiscate them, they’ll have to pry them from my cold, dead hands.

But I really don’t think it will never come to that.

Aside from a few people on the fringe, there are no elected officials or influential political groups that have any desire to confiscate rifles or shotguns from private citizens. None. I think my weapons are completely safe from confiscation.

As for handguns, there are plenty of elected officials and political groups that do want to keep them out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill and children. I believe that thorough background checks, gunlocks and other practices — perhaps requiring insurance -- that ensure those ends, are great policies in the name of gun safety.

What about assault rifles, meaning weapons like AK-47’s and the AR-15 Bushmaster that Adam Lanza in Sandy Hook used to kill 20 first graders? Yes, there are people who want to outlaw the sale of — not to confiscate — military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines. If assault weapon sales had been outlawed in the past, Lanza’s law-abiding mother would not have had one in the house for her apparently deranged son to shoot her in the face with and then quickly kill 20 first graders.

As a southern working-class white male I don’t feel the least bit threatened by any of the proposals President Barack Obama has put out in an effort to save the lives of our children. So why did the Moccasin Creek Minutemen call an emergency meeting with three sheriffs from Wake, Franklin and Johnson counties at a steakhouse in Zebulon to ask if they would obey hypothetical federal laws requiring them to seize certain firearms? No leader or political group with any influence is even considering confiscation of weapons.


This unfounded notion of using background checks as a way to confiscate weapons from law-abiding citizens is a red herring. According to legend a red herring, a very smelly smoked fish, was used by escaped convicts to throw the hounds of law enforcement off their scent. If this red herring of claiming that background checks leading to confiscations works — meaning that it keeps this country from doing a better job keeping military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines out of the hands of the wrong people -- then we are no wiser then a pack of hounds who can only smell what’s right in front of them.

I don’t blame the members of the Moccasin Creek Militia or other owners of firearms. I think this red herring situation is knowingly created by 1) the firearms manufacturers, 2) the people they pay for, like the staff of the National Rifle Association and 3) the Rush Limbaughs of talk radio.

Draft-dodging, four-time divorcee Limbaugh has made the point many times that he is not a journalist, but an entertainer. And as an entertainer, he shows no shame over waving red herrings by making inaccurate claims like this on Jan. 15th: “Everybody knows that the Democrat Party, if they could, would take your gun away from you. “ No truth to it, but as an influential entertainer he can get a lot of mileage — and money -- out of it.

And when NRA leader Wayne LaPierre called for putting armed guards in schools to prevent future Sandy Hook’s, did he not know that Columbine High School had an armed guard who couldn’t prevent that attack? Did he not recall that Ronald Reagan’s deranged attacker got through a squad of Secret Service agents —all trained killers with concealed weapons? LaPierre’s proposal was not a serious attempt to make schools safer. He acted in service to the firearms manufacturers who fund much of the NRA.

Republican NJ Governor Chris Christie has spoken out against posting armed guards in schools. And four-time Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, who co-hosts the Morning Joe talk show, says despite his 100 percent rating from the NRA while in office, “Parents can no longer take “no” for an answer from Washington when the topic turns to protecting our children.” Scarborough said gun violence was linked to “violent popular culture, a growing mental health crisis and the proliferation of combat-styled weapons.”

There are many Democrats, Republicans, parents and gun-owning southern white boys like me who aren’t thrown off the scent by red herrings about confiscation and the Constitution. But we’ll have to speak up now if we want our country to be a safe place for little children to go to school every day. 

Frank Hyman is a former member of the Durham City Council and a small-business owner.