Printed on: January 28, 2013

Twin Falls Times-News: What we know, what we don't know

We know that since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 there have been more than 925 additional gun deaths in our country.

We don't know how many of these would have been avoided if the executive orders signed by the president or the proposals he forwarded to Congress this week had already been in place.

We know that yesterday was "Gun Appreciation Day," a hastily put-together coalition of groups that encouraged gun owners via their website and mass email campaign to "go to your local gun store, gun range or gun show with your Constitution, American flag and your 'Hands off my Guns' sign to send a loud and clear message to Congress and President Obama."

We know that the top story on their website, "Guns and Freedom" (printed in its entirety along the right-hand column) is said to be written by "Judge" Andrew P. Napolitano, who in reality is a former judge and current Fox News commentator. We know that the third story found on is "Guns are Safe and Sexy."

We don't know the complete motivation behind "Gun Appreciation Day," nor of what organizers would call "success" following its conclusion.

We know that lawful, responsible gun owners feel threatened. We wonder what Gun Appreciation Day looks like to parents in Newtown.

We know that last Tuesday the New York Legislature passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a fairly comprehensive gun bill that further restricted sale of assault weapons, reduced maximum ammunition magazine capacity to seven bullets and implemented additional measures to keep guns out of the hands of those who are mentally disturbed.

We know that no such legislation will be introduced this spring in Boise.

We know that (according to their website) the board of directors of the National Rifle Association has 75 members and that the NRA itself has upward of 4 million members. We know how NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre feels about ANY gun restrictions.

We don't know how the 4.3 million members feel, although surveys indicate a rather broad array of opinions on the acceptability of certain gun and ammunition restrictions as well as the need for increasing the thoroughness and effectiveness of background checks for all gun purchases. In a group of any kind that has that many members, there's always more diversity of opinion than is readily apparent.

We know that our state of Idaho was among the very last to upload mental health records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Fortunately, this has changed. Dawn Peck, manager of the Bureau of Criminal Identification for the Idaho State Police, recently stated that 16,383 records have now been submitted. That's encouraging.

We know that the word "gun" is not specifically contained in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Nor, for that matter, is the word "gun" found in the Bible.

And yet both documents are frequently used as proof texts to support positions long held. The constitution reads the same in blue states as it does red. Bibles with blue covers or red letters contain the same words.

We know that the Times-News was but a small voice among many that called for a renewed dialogue about all aspects of school safety, mental health and guns in the week immediately following the Dec. 14 shooting in Connecticut.

We know that the issues have been in the news more, but see little evidence that true "dialogue" has occurred. Rhetoric has increased and intensified; but all too frequently the necessary dialogue looks like and sounds like two concurrent monologues.

But the issues are at least being talked about, and that's a start.

At some point in the past, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, residents of red states and blue states agreed that having guns on airplanes was a bad thing. It was a small point of agreement; but agreement nonetheless. There are others out there. And with a little less talking and a lot more listening they can be found.