Indiana Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, couldn’t help himself.
I’d written a column about the Red for Ed protest. I said the critics of the rally seemed not to realize the protestors had the same right to petition government for redress of grievances that everyone does. There is no asterisk attached to the First Amendment, I wrote.
Lucas couldn’t wait to respond. In a comment, he said the same was true of the Second Amendment and that I attacked it like a “zealot.”
His response demonstrates just how surreal our national debate about gun-related violence has become. Lucas and his fellow gun devotees live in an up-is-down, black-is-white, night-is-day world, and they want everyone to look at things through the same distorted filter they do.
We’ll set aside for the purposes of this discussion the fact that the language in the First Amendment has considerable differences from the Second Amendment. The First Amendment’s declaration that “Congress shall make no law” is clearer and more emphatic than the Second Amendment’s problematic — for people who think like Lucas – qualifying phrases regarding militia service and regulation.
But that’s another discussion for another day.
Let’s focus instead on the issue of zealotry.
I never have accepted money from nor donated money to any organization connected to the gun-violence debate. Lucas has done both. He has accepted political action committee campaign cash from the National Rifle Association and has signed correspondence by saying he is a lifetime member of the NRA.
Lucas appeared a couple of times on a radio show I hosted to discuss guns. Each time he thanked me for being fair. That’s not a compliment those who disagree with Lucas on guns are likely to return. When Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense testified before a legislative committee of which Lucas was a member, Lucas bullied and pilloried her. He made clear that only people who agree with him should be allowed to talk about gun violence.
In the years I have written about gun violence, I never have called for confiscation of firearms or establishing penalties for law-abiding gun owners. All I have said is that, in any discussion of how we deal with our national epidemic of gun-related violence, guns ought to be part of the conversation.
Lucas, on the other hand, takes pride in saying he’s “an absolutist” when it comes to owning weapons. When I asked him once over the air if that meant he believed private citizens should have the right to own, say, nuclear weapons, he hemmed and hawed and tried to avoid answering. But he didn’t say no. He refused to say that there is any weapon a person should not be allowed to own. When I have pressed him at other times to name any gun law — however mild, however sensible — he could support, his answer always has been that he can’t think of one.
Just a couple of days after Lucas dropped his “zealot” comment, there was another school shooting in America.
This one was in California.
On his 16th birthday, a student at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita brought a gun to school. He opened fire on schoolmates, killing two and wounding three others, before using the last bullet in the gun to shoot himself in the head. He later died.
Because he used a semi-automatic weapon, it took the shooter only 16 seconds to end two innocent lives and inflict grievous damage on God knows how many others.
The tragedy sparked more calls for an end to horrors such as this one.
Not much will come of those calls.
Lucas and his fellow true believers will do everything they can to keep us from having a meaningful discussion about how we might curtail the gun-related horrors plaguing our land.
Because they love their guns so much, Lucas and his crew will fight tooth and nail to keep the rest of us from trying to save lives.
There’s a word that describes people who have such fervor.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.