Cain, Abel and The Line on guns | Ryan Ryals

We’ve finally crossed the line this time.

There’s an imaginary line that exists in most issues today. It’s the line that separates behaviors we will tolerate and those that we won’t. This line is so important we should officially capitalize it as The Line.

Take steroids in baseball for example. Three of the greatest baseball players in history were denied entry into their hall of fame due to suspicion of steroid use. Steroids weren’t against baseball rules at the time, but they were illegal under federal law.

The fact that the behavior was illegal isn’t where The Line exists. That’s because the gatekeepers who denied entry to the possible steroid users ended up awarding the 2012 Most Valuable Player award to a ballplayer who was arrested the previous year for drunk driving and resisting arrest.

Instead, The Line was crossed when the alleged illegal behavior might have given them an edge over their opponents. Drunk driving and fighting police officers? No problem — here’s your trophy. Might have used steroids a few times, resulting in an extra 10 home runs in one year? You, sir, are a disgrace to the game for crossing The Line.

Cigarette smokers are used to seeing The Line move on them every few years. For a long time, you could smoke anywhere — in motel rooms, at work, even on an enclosed airplane.

First, The Line was drawn across the middle of the airplane. You can’t smoke in row 15, but it is acceptable in row 16. Then, you couldn’t smoke in the lavatory either. Finally, all airplane flights are non-smoking, with violators subject to arrest. Sometime I wonder if flight attendants are required to try to capture the smoke in a bag as evidence.

What was once perfectly acceptable on airplanes in 1985 was outright prohibited in 1995, but the location of The Line on smoking has largely disappeared from national headlines.

This month, we’re looking at The Line on gun control.

The hysterical fringe on either side plays tug of war with this line, spending lots of resources trying to convince the public that their side is the rational one.

The politicians who solicit campaign contributions from the fringes often have to move the line more subtly. Our Congressman, Dave Reichert, has been fairly silent on the national stage until his party leaders needed a former sheriff to say, “The assault weapon ban, the magazine limitations, does not solve the problem of crime: I think you really have to add the mental health issues and that’s the first and foremost issue.”

I don’t recall him bringing up that point during his seven years as King County’s top crime problem solver, but he does say that he was once stabbed by a mentally ill person, so I’m sure he means it.

What we’re really talking about on gun control is where The Line should be. Its current location has worked for a while — we’ve tolerated about 82 gun related deaths per day without too much of a fuss.

But we have little tolerance for gun murders when they happen in mass killings of children, so it’s time to move The Line again.

The latest proposals by Democrats are dozens of tiny measures: some red tape, some restrictions, and a ban on the meanest looking weapons. I think even they would privately admit that this is like handing a pack of first aid bandages to someone who really should be having surgery.

These efforts are only meant to pacify public opinion by getting a single digit reduction on the gun murder rate. None of the rule makers expect to make any real progress in getting us to stop killing each other.

Instead, we have these ridiculous single issue solutions: proposals for even more guns, outright bans on guns, bans on violent video games, and be sure to lock up them crazies.

We can help some of the mentally ill, but that takes money. Money to lock up the dangerous ones, money to pay counselors, money to pay for drugs to keep them pacified.

That doesn’t jibe with today’s Republican “you’re on your own” policies, so don’t look for any serious legislation to address this problem. The Line on how we address mental illness is staying right where it is.

We’ll always have murder. A ban on guns wouldn’t have saved Abel from death at the hands of Cain. We can increase the deterrents to violence and reduce access to the most dangerous weapons, but we have made very little progress on stemming the desire to kill.

The bigger question is, will you be satisfied by simply moving The Line again?


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