Sunday January 13, 2013

‘Dear Conservative American," begins an email that found its way to my screen, thanks to a well-meaning acquaintance whose views I don’t share. It was from a service called Conservativeactionale-rts.com, promoting something called "Gun Appreciation Day" next Saturday.

In case this is news to you, the organizers are urging Americans to go to local gun stores, shows and target ranges to show their love for the Second Amendment and the weapons that it allows Americans to possess -- although many legal and constitutional scholars remain conflicted about the amendment’s actual intent.

Claiming "The Obama Administration has shown that it is more than willing to trample the Constitution," Gun Appreciation Day’s chairman, Larry Ward, urges Americans to "fight back now." He adds, "Obama will do to the Second Amendment what he has already done to the First with Obamacare -- gut it without a moment’s thought to our basic constitutional rights."

It’s baffling to consider what the health insurance law has to do with the First Amendment, but perhaps Ward’s next project should be a Free Speech Appreciation Day.

Here’s more of Ward’s thinking: "If, as this president claims, the American people are at risk from murderous rampagers, the logical solution is to arm, not present a docile target."

The list of member groups supporting Gun Appreciation Day is intriguing -- it includes the Second Amendment Foundation, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Special Operations Speaks, Revolution PAC, Citizens and Country, Women Warriors PAC, Conservative Action Fund, and Political Media Inc., run by Ward.

According to the electronic mass mailing, "Gun Appreciation Day member organizations are urging their supporters to line up around the block at gun stores, counters, shows and ranges to protest the Obama administration’s post-Sandy Hook assault on gun rights.The organizations aim to reach more than 50 million Americans online, on-air and in their members’ inboxes."

Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation and chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, declared: "We need to ban politicians who assault our rights, not firearms that are used thousands of times a day to protect lives and property from criminal attack."

Before seeking donations from supporters, the message explains the high stakes: "While national gun control efforts are looming, this event is crucial in showing that the Second Amendment is still more popular than government-led disarmament."

Personally, I don’t think guns should be appreciated, although their limited use should be acknowledged.

The guns that I acknowledge are in law-enforcement officers’ holsters, or are used for hunting or target practice and at other times locked away for safe-keeping by responsible owners, who remain the vast majority within the 49 percent of the U.S. population that owns weapons. The guns that I don’t acknowledge are AR-15s and similar assault-type weapons with high-capacity ammunition magazines that have been used in most of the mass-murder rampages at schools, a movie theater, shopping malls, churches and other public spaces.

Let’s be clear: very few reasonable people are seeking to confiscate the nearly 300 million weapons already owned. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wisely backed away from a vague suggestion that he might go that far, realizing that such an effort would prompt a political firestorm. It’s as impractical as the absurd notion of deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants.

But many caring people -- including a majority of the NRA’s 4.2 million members though not its paranoid leaders -- have no reason to fear the recommendations Vice President Biden will unveil on Tuesday. The plan is likely to include universal background checks for any and all gun purchases, including those at gun shows, and a ban on future sales of those mega ammo-clips.

Biden may suggest restrictions on sales of assault-style weapons, but that aspect of the gun-safety plan is likely to be given low priority, unfortunately, because of fierce opposition.

Attention to restoring mental health services cut back so severely by budget bean-counters is also a vital part of the solution.

The post-Newtown debate on how to bring some order to our chaotic gun-obsessed culture -- and to reduce blatant, graphic violence afflicting too many movies, TV and video games -- must not be hijacked by extremists.

Achieving a centrist consensus on logical gun-regulation laws would be a great achievement.

It would merit a celebration that a vast number of Americans would enthusiastically support.

It could be called Safety Appreciation Day.

Clarence Fanto writes for The Eagle. He can be contacted by email at cfanto@yahoo.com.