THE EDITOR'S COLUMN: Facts top feelings, change views on gun issues
by Tom Skoch.
AFTER reading through reporter Taylor Dungjen’s front page story today on the relatively trouble-free growth of concealed carry of handguns in Ohio, I have to admit I was wrong.
Back in 2004, when Ohio’s law allowing licensed concealed carry of handguns was adopted, I was among the opponents who thought it would make public shoot-outs common and fill the streets with blood.
In part, my view was molded by the accidental gunshot death of a person I very much admired.
He was the guy who gave me my first newspaper byline, as a matter of fact.
We worked together on police beat when I was a reporting intern at The Cleveland Press one summer, and by the time I came back as a full-time reporter after graduation from college, he was gone.
Guns were not part of my city-kid upbringing, and all I saw of them as a young reporter on the police beat spelled trouble.
As this newspaper’s Editorial Page editor in 2004, whenever I wrote a negative opinion piece about concealed carry, it got support from some readers who shared the same feeling, but it also got a flood of responses countering my arguments. The response from gun supporters was loud and spirited, to put it politely, and full of factual information. And the difference between opinion based on “feeling” and opinion based on fact, over time, made all the difference in changing my viewpoint.
The facts showed that concealed carry did not bring Ohio more crime, more bloodshed or a Wild West atmosphere. In fact, none of that has happened anywhere in the United States as legal concealed carry has become the rule rather than the exception in the state laws across the land.
Yes, in a perfect world, there would be no need for guns. But the world is not perfect, and never will be perfect. Two-legged predators will always be a threat to good citizens. The law forbids felons from possessing guns, but criminals ignore the law, so it is only proper that law-abiding people be allowed to possess and to carry a weapon if they meet the rules in the law.
Police cannot be everywhere at all times, and most often are not in a position to provide protection from a potentially deadly criminal attack that occurs in seconds. That’s when a person’s right and responsibility to defend themselves and their family members from death or serious harm would call for use of a firearm.
Our nation’s founders put their own lives at grave risk to break free of a tyrannical king and give us liberty, something that nobody but us Americans has ever tasted so fully in the history of mankind.
Out of that crucible of the American Revolution, the founders drew up the Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
Second only to free speech, they emphasized the right to keep and bear arms for defense — a right the Supreme Court recently said belongs to each individual, not just collectively to create state militias.
So, back to Lorain County and concealed carry. Time and events have proven that concealed carry is safe for the public in general. Gun ownership is perfectly fine. Both carry an obligation to follow well-known laws and rules for safety, and that’s exactly what law abiding citizens will do by their nature. It’s criminals, by their nature, that we should worry about.
This column, and Taylor Dungjen’s front page story by no means cover every aspect of the long-running debates over firearms. That would take a book, or several books.
For now, let’s just say I freely admit I was on the wrong side of this argument for too long, and the facts presented by gun rights advocates over the years finally have brought me to see the issue with appropriate clarity.
If you want to be a gun owner or even a concealed carry license holder, fine. Just do it right.
It’s one of our most fundamental rights as Americans.
Tom Skoch is editor of The Morning Journal and www.MorningJournal.com, where his Tell the Editor blog appears. He is on Twitter as MJ_Tom_Skoch and can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected]