During the recent gubernatorial elections there were a lot of different issues discussed. Some were calculated and bogus like the Obama bashing; some were opportunistic and exaggerated such as the Syrian immigrant hysteria; and then there were some that actually touched on real concerns, particularly the state budget and the structure of education.
One issue that you heard very little about, though it divides the state and though there were related incidents around the country weekly, was gun regulation. Few questions were asked; no one really talked about it. There was probably good reason. To have a genuine debate you need to have differences of opinion but in this matter, especially in Louisiana, there is only one opinion that counts. To succeed politically a person has to be against gun regulation – there is no room for compromise; little to talk about.
A revealing moment came the evening of the shooting at the theater in Lafayette. Bobby Jindal, who happened to be in the state that night, had a chance to get more national exposure than when he was campaigning for President. Jindal rushed to the scene of the crime where he found his way in front of the cameras and bravely took a position in favor of prayer, which he urged the good people of Louisiana to offer to the victims and their kin. When asked about gun laws, that was another matter. The governor said that it was inappropriate to talk about “politics’” at that sorrowful moment. Politics? We know how disregarded the issue is when a governor, standing at a spot where two people were just killed by a gunman, who then took his own life, and several others were wounded, puts gun laws in the same category that one might discusses candidates for justice of the peace or delegates to the party conventions— just politics. Damn it, someone needs to talk about it!
I know the arguments for tougher gun laws and I know the arguments against them. Every time there is a mass shooting, such as last week’s San Bernardino tragedy, people rally to their predetermined side of the issue. Those who favor tougher laws say that guns are too easy to obtain; those against tougher laws say that the incidents provide proof why we need to be able to protect ourselves.
Somewhere, though, there must be a way to make it more difficult for guns to fall into the hands of the wrong people. I just don’t understand why we need to be a nation of people packing borderline machine guns. And if it is for hunting, that hardly seems sporting.
Orleans parish's D.A. Leon Cannizarro said last week that he wants to propose new gun laws to the legislature in the upcoming session. The D.A. is not politically naïve. He knows the reality of state politics; but he also spends his days looking down the barrel of murderous crimes. Maybe it is time for there to at least be an open-minded, informed debate about new gun laws and for the discussion to be elevated in political minds as being above politics. That would be my prayer.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s new book, “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2013), has been released. It is now available at local bookstores and at book web sites.