WashPost Columnist Kelly: Make Gun Purchasers Get a 'Co-Signer' to Vouch for Sanity

July 24th, 2012 4:28 PM

Updated below: Kelly replies via Twitter.

Washington Post Metro columnist John Kelly usually avoids controversial political subjects and often does "answer man" features about local D.C.-area history, making his feature overall an enjoyable read. But from time to time Kelly works in his liberal bias, just as when he bashed conservative talk show hosts as "right-wing nutjobs" and when he weighed in against the so-called Tebow bill that would allow homeschoolers to join local high school sports teams.

Today, Kelly offered an idea of his for a gun control measure but concluded by grousing that it probably would never get passed into law because those pesky "Second Amendment absolutists" would get in the way and so, "we'll just continue to accept that the price for having a well-regulated militia is that homicidal maniacs will be able to buy guns as easily as buying tickets to a movie."

After noting how Aurora theater shooting suspect James Holmes "supposedly was odd enough to creep out a Colorado gun range owner" and citing "[a] report last year from the advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns," Kelly offered, "How about requiring a co-signer for your gun license?" The co-signer "could be a family member, a friend, a co-worker, anyone who could swear he knew no reason you shouldn't have a gun."

"[S]urely it would stop the friendless loners -- or at least deprive them of an easy way to kill," Kelly insisted.

Ah, yes, everyone knows the Founding Fathers only believed that sociable extroverts should have the right to keep and bear arms, not eccentric loners!

Obviously Kelly's idea is frought with constitutional problems, and you don't have to be an "absolutist" on the Second Amendment to see that. Certainly his idea is inimical to the concept of a personal right to privacy, which, of course isn't in the Constitution but was read into it by liberal jurists.

And what other rights guaranteed to "the people" in the Bill of Rights should have co-signers? The right to speech or press? After all, Holmes created homemade bombs and booby-traps that he no doubt learned about by reading bomb-making manuals, whether they were printed in book form or available electronically over the Internet.

Only "First Amendment absolutists" believe someone should be able to read whatever they want or write whatever they want, right, Mr. Kelly?

I guess we just have to accept that the cost of protecting free, but dangerous speech, is occasional abuse by violent radicals.

Indeed, that's the whole idea of the Bill of Rights: some rights are too precious to negotiate away legislatively to a majority vote.

Update (11:50 a.m. EDT, July 25): I tweeted my story with an @ link to Kelly's twitter account, @JohnKelly. He tweeted back hours later with the question, "And what's your idea, Ken?"

I replied to Kelly with a series of tweets:

"My idea: The societal response to a mass shooting should NOT be 'what individual rights do we chip away now?'," I tweeted first, followed by a series of tweets (strung together below, initially separated by ellipses):

Evil people abuse the liberty they have to evil ends. It's an unfortunate byproduct of living in a free society. However, the... ...response to evil is not restricting liberty but letting it flourish. And it works. Gun crime precipitously dropped over... ...the past 20 years or so as more and more states liberalized gun laws (concealed carry, ending waiting periods, etc.).

Kelly replied hours later:

My pursuit of happiness is severely curtailed by an asshole with a gun. Make it harder for him to get one.

I have since continued to attempt to further the Twitter debate, but the point is pretty clear: Kelly is unrepentant in his call for gun control and pretty clearly doesn't not think his idea is an intrusion into the liberty of law-abiding citizens.