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Opening Arguments

Gun hands

The 17th annual Indiana Conference of Mayors convened in Kokomo recently, and gun control was a hot topic:

Early Thursday morning the mayors moved into their first seminar, titled "Guns N’ Gov," which addressed the issue of armed citizens in public meetings and how to walk the line between public safety and constitutional rights.

 Following the introduction of three bills in this year’s General Assembly by Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, and Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo – all of which aimed to lessen gun ownership restrictions – the Second Amendment has become a hot button issue throughout Indiana, each mayor admitted.

But after attending the firearm-focused seminar, some had different takes on how the situation should be addressed, including Seybold’s idea of enacting local gun legislation based on the size and makeup of a community.

“When you start getting down-into-the-minute detail of what it is going to be, I think that should be more locally controlled,” said Seybold. “What might be good in a rural city might not be good for a city that has houses close together that could be affected by gun discharges.

“When you drill it down to the local level, there are a lot of factors that get involved, from community size to closeness of properties. There are a lot of things to look at.”

I've written frequently about how the Bill of Rights has been turned on its head (probably more on the editorial page than here). It was originally intended as a brake on the federal government, insisted on by the anti-Federalists at the constitutional convention who had a deep fear of central power. It was not intended to apply to state and local governments. (At the time of the Constitution's adoption, fore xample, some states had official religions.)

Then came the Civil War, the 14th Amendment and, yada, yada, yada, the Bill of Rights was gradually turned into an instrument of the federal government, wielded against the very states that had tried to use it as a check against the federal government.

It is possible, I think, to have mixed feelings about this, speaking as a conservative/libertarian creature somewhere on the right. On the one hand, the change has facilitated the growth of the federal government into the monster it has become, and none of us who value what the founders intended are happy about that. On the other hand, if something is a constitutional right, it is our right no matter where we live, is it not?

I'm a strong proponent of as much local control as possible, especially when it comes to fiscal matters but in other areas, too.  Local officials have a better handle on the local situation and the needs and wants of their constituents. I appreciate Mayor Seybold's point about urban areas and smaller towns perhaps looking at guns differently. But I also know gun owners already hate the hassle of having to decipher state-by-state gun laws as they travel; Imagine having to decipher county-by-county ones within a state.

On the one hand. On the other hand. Jeez. I'm sounding like a USA Today editorial here.