Will the real Ray Simpson show up?

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Occasionally, I venture into the 10th circle of hell — Wednesday Journal's online comments — a realm beyond anything even Dante could imagine.

It is not for the faint of heart, especially when the subject is guns. The other day, I checked the foul dust in the wake of my recent column, "Newtown, newcountry?" [Viewpoints, Dec. 18] and was about to bail out, but the last comment (#39), by "Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois," caught my eye:

"Ken Trainor - let me see if I understand your offer. You will come back to the table if we forfeit our 2nd amendment rights, our Supreme Court victory, our newly acquired conceal carry rights, our reams of data and statistics supporting our position and anything else that you might perceive as 'SCARY' and you offer endless hand wringing scenarios and nothing else. Fooled once shame on you, fooled twice shame on me. You have stated here that you have no willingness to budge on anything - what are you offering? Why would we even consider reopening talks?"

Ray was a member of our recently concluded "Gun Rights and Responsibilities Committee," which gives you some sense of what we were up against. But I wondered if, underneath the layers of hyperbole and distortion, there might actually be an honest question lurking, so, in the interest of the continuing gun rights vs. responsibilities discussion (though no longer "at the table"), here's my response:

No, Ray. We're not asking you to give up your gun rights. Quite the opposite, which you would know if you had read our final report [Viewpoints, Dec. 4] or if you were honest about what you read if you did. In fact, all along we were upfront about acknowledging and even supporting your gun rights. We also supported your call for greater law enforcement efforts against criminals, especially gangs. It's all right there in the report you dismissed publicly several times as "drivel." I'm assuming you didn't really read it since a healthy portion of the report was devoted to your concerns and proposals, which you say we ignored.

If our report was "drivel," then your position is drivel as well, since we included it. Therefore you must not have read the report. I suggest you do so. I think you'll be surprised how fair and even-handed it is — certainly a lot more even-handed than your subsequent comments online and here in the Viewpoints section.

To repeat (because I don't want you to miss it again), we acknowledge and support your right to own firearms for self-defense purposes (as well as target shooting and hunting). We also acknowledge that concealed-carry is the law of this state and every other state.

No one is trying to take away your guns or your rights. Just because you don't believe us doesn't mean we're lying. Your disbelief is your problem, not ours.

We're simply asking you — and all gun owners — to accept the responsibilities that go along with those rights. Specifically, we're asking you to accept — in principle only, mind you — a universal system of background checks, consistent across the entire country, on all firearm purchases and transfers. No exceptions for gun shows or anything else. Everyone complies because it benefits everyone, aka "the common good," by helping keep guns out of the wrong hands, something you claim to support. Accepting background checks (in principle) would be a good-faith demonstration that gun owners are sincere about actually doing their part to reduce the scourge of gun violence in this country.

It would show that we're all in this together.

I know, I know, the devil is in the details. That's why we're only asking you to accept this in principle, with the stipulation that it must not be excessively burdensome to gun owners or violate their rights. See? We were listening.

Without background checks, we would get nothing out of our discussions and you would get everything you want. Not exactly fair. You don't have to do anything other than fill out a very weak FOID card application every 10 years. Even your side admitted the system is a joke — and Illinois, as I understand it, is the only state that even does that much.

We've made lots of concessions (all listed in our report). Your side made none. Which side is being rigid? 

If you judged Ray Simpson entirely by his online comments, you would conclude he's just another easily excited hothead whose only rhetorical device is exaggeration — not someone to be taken seriously. He does at least use his own name, which is more than can be said for the majority of the hotheads who pop up online every time this newspaper prints the word "gun." 

It would be easy to write Ray off, except that he blew his cover. The online hothead was not the person who showed up at our meetings for 11 months. That Ray Simpson was soft-spoken, intelligent, and gave indications of being a reasonable human being. 

I don't know which is the real Ray Simpson — maybe both — but I'm calling out Reasonable Ray, who knows full well that what we've been asking (not demanding) is modest (not radical). 

Come out from behind your protective thicket of stereotyping, misrepresentation and exaggeration and engage us in honest dialogue. Maybe you're afraid your nameless buddies in the online echo chamber will rip you to shreds for "consorting with the enemy." But we're not the enemy and you know that because you spent 11 months getting to know us.

We treated you with respect, and I will continue to treat the Ray Simpson who showed up at those meetings with respect. It's hard to respect the online version, however.

I'm calling on you to be a role model who can teach the rest of the hotheads how to dialogue. But first you may have to learn how to do so yourself. Take some tips from Jim Coughlin, one of the few online commenters who knows how to keep his cool.

Here's a tip I learned the hard way over 29 years of writing newspaper columns: It doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong. The more you exaggerate, the less people will listen and the more they'll lose respect for you.

So if there really is the germ of an honest question in your last post, I just gave you an honest answer. 

And I'm only doing it because I respect the Ray Simpson who showed up.

Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

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Bill Dwyer  

Posted: January 22nd, 2014 3:46 PM

C'mon Brian. Don't take Trainor out of context to make a point. You're better than that. What he SAID was: "It doesn't matter whether you're right or wrong. The more you exaggerate, the less people will listen and the more they'll lose respect for you." That is hardly akin to Josef Goebells' cynical philosophy of propaganda.


Posted: January 10th, 2014 11:30 AM

Um, why all the talk about "universal background checks" We already have that in Illinois. You can only sell a gun to someone who has a FOID. If you have a FOID, a background check is done on you 365 days a year. How much more "universal" do you want? And yes, you are required to confirm that the FOID is valid with ISP

David Schoemaker from Carpentersville  

Posted: January 10th, 2014 10:52 AM

Ok, lets for sake of arguments say we can work out the universal background checks in such a way that they do not interfere with gun owners rights. Would the other side then agree to open or concealed with no more than a nominal fee? They have gone through background check to get the permit, to puchase the gun and to purchase the ammunition. Seems "reasonable".

Ken Trainor from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2014 8:58 AM

Thanks, Brian. I appreciate this. We'll put together some details and get it in Viewpoints, if not next week, then the week after. In the meantime, we'd appreciate any ideas you have for how to do universal background checks without violating your rights.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2014 7:49 AM

Ken, keep in mind, I support your position in principle

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2014 7:47 AM

Ken, I am a gun owner who attended the meetings and speaking only for myself. as I posted to the Honorable Dr. Baretts letter"a universal back round check" I now support as a person your demand for a universal back round check. Please explain how, who and where the check will work. Remember your promise not to infringe on the legal gun owners rights. Tell me what the next step is.Tell me how I will be supporting your position.Please explain the devil in the details.

Dominick Ahrens  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 6:36 PM

So the restriction - excuse me, responsibilities side proposed: National Checks - adding time, cost & not stopping straw purchases; Limiting how many guns citizens can buy - yet no discussion on limiting criminal purchases, nor limits on other rights, like books or church donations - yet; Limiting magazine size yet ignoring the shootings that took place where criminals used 10 rounders; Requiring citizens render themselves defenseless - unless they can unlock their secure storage before the law ignoring criminal gets in; Requiring safety training - yet no training to exercise any other right, and no mention of who would construct the course - perhaps someone as scared & clueless about guns as the NY Rep with "the shoulder thingy that goes up"? True concessions might have included public facilities for CCW training, legal gun owners trading 1 gun for another at a dealer without waiting. Maybe eliminate the wait for gun carrying CCW holders? Yet nothing. Instead the concession the Restrictions - sorry, Responsibilities side have made include: Self-defense ?" nice, since South v Maryland in 1856 & a score of cases since place the burden of protection on the individual, absolving the government of all responsibility. Gun ownership - after resisting by every means for 20+ years. Assault weapons bans - more precisely realizing that the political climate doesn't support one now. Opposing? any effort by the government to take away the guns of law-abiding citizens - yet no problem with rules that could have just that result. Stronger law enforcement efforts - yet the majority of recommendations show that their focus remains not on the criminals who use guns illegally, but on legal gun owners. Funny - despite all the talk of the concessions the restriction - darn it, there I go again, responsibilities side claims to have made, I have a hard time discerning anything other than a begrudging acknowledgement of current case law and politics at best.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 5:38 PM

The mechanics of discharging a firearm. From 1974 to about 1994 the rapid fire combat shooting course at the OPPD w/a revolver was fire 6 rounds.reload,fire six,hitting the target 12 times in less than 25 seconds. W/practice we got so good we were firing 18 rounds in just under 30 secondsThe Coin Shop murder on Harlem, a second life was saved because the semi auto pistol mis fired, weak spring speck of dirt the size of the dot on the letter i.It is not the magazine.its the shooter.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 5:29 PM

A female Conn. State Rep. according to newspaper accounts wanted the magazine for self defense. NY state law for a 11 round capacity magazine is a 2nd class misdemeanor. Ray Heise wanted a ban on 11 round magazines. I proposed any person using a large capacity magazine in a crime should be sentenced to life.Ken you sat silent as a stone. Principle. Ken you know better than the majority of residents in Connecticut or the country for that matter. Hail Ken.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 5:19 PM

paragraph 9 "accept in principle only min you a universal system of back round checks" Ken, I broke ranks with my side and proposed out loud, either a federal system or a state system. and Mr, Trainor , you made no comment, sat silent as a stone. If it is not Trainors principle, it is no principle at all.You would not discuss the nuts and bolts issues of backround checks at all. Principle.Ray Heise wants a ban on 10 round capacity magazines. The State of Cinn. after Newtown, voted that ban down.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 5:08 PM

Paragraph 7, "We acknowledge and support your right to own firearms" After the Supreme Court ordered you to, after the Supreme Court acknowledged that the majority of Oak Park residents, the local elected government and the legal department of the VOP violated the rights of the minority gun owners for almost 30 years.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2014 5:00 PM

Lets look at what Kens says"paragraph 20,"Hers a tip I learned the hardway over 29 years of writing newspaper columns. It doesn't matter whether you are right or wrong" Ken must have been an honor roll student at the Dr. Josef Goebells School of Journalism. I wonder what the Holocaust Survivors would think of that remark."The more you exaggerate, the less people will listen to you" and then he compares the online section to descending into Dantes hell. Really Ken, an exaggeration?

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