The 'goofs with guns' syndrome

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Whatever else you think about the Zimmerman verdict — and it has generated quite the lively national conversation — I think most of us can agree on one thing:

George Zimmerman is a Grade-A Goof. When you end up shooting an unarmed 17-year-old because you wouldn't heed urgent advice from a police dispatcher to stay in your car, you're, at the very least, a goof.

And therein lies our problem as a gun-carrying society.

If you read this column regularly, you know I'm involved in an ongoing group discussion of this very issue. We still don't really have a name, but I tend to refer to it as the "Gun Rights vs. Responsibilities Group."

It has been quite an interesting and illuminating exercise in civic engagement, but most of us will not consider it a success unless we get from "Rights vs. Responsibilities" to "Rights and Responsibilities."

If we could devise a system that would do a better job of limiting access to guns by those who shouldn't have them — i.e. kids, criminals, and the dangerously mentally ill — as long as that system didn't infringe the constitutional right to own and bear arms, and if it could be done without creating a national gun registry data base, then those of us on both sides of the issue, I think, would be in favor.

That's a tall order, but we're making some progress. Both sides agree that kids, criminals and the dangerously mentally ill should not have guns and that efforts should be made to limit easy access to them.

But for me, the Zimmerman case adds another problem category: goofs.

Goofs with guns may be the greatest threat to public safety resulting from the recently passed concealed-carry legislation in Illinois. The problem is, goofs can't really be screened, profiled, diagnosed or prevented from owning guns. We only recognize it after the fact, as in the sorry case of George Zimmerman, a goof with a gun at the wrong place at the wrong time (as far as Trayvon Martin and his loved ones are concerned).

I have enjoyed getting to know gun owners with strong feelings about the Second Amendment. They strike me as decent, sincere people. And I accept their contention that the majority of gun owners are law-abiding, responsible people.

Goofs with guns are the minority. We just don't know how large a minority.

Most gun owners, I suspect, would acknowledge the "goofs with guns" syndrome (Those who don't may very well be the goofs).

But if, realistically, we can't be pro-active about goofs bearing arms, we can do something after the fact. Though Zimmerman wasn't convicted, a lot of people would probably agree he should forfeit his right to carry a gun ever again. Rights with Responsibilites: when your lack of responsibility results in an unjustified fatality, you lose your rights as well. But, of course, there's no realistic way to legislate that, so it won't happen.

George Z. is probably already out there toting his firearm as if nothing happened, and you can bet the NRA leadership will fight to the death to preserve his right to do so — even though they, too, probably recognize he's a goof who really can't be trusted with a lethal weapon.

Gun rights advocates often argue: Why should we make it harder for law-abiding, responsible individuals to exercise their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms?

But here's another way to look at it: Why should we make it easier for kids, criminals and the dangerously mentally ill — and I would now add goofs — to gain access to guns?

The July issue of Harper's Index (a regular feature of Harper's magazine) takes note of the fact that, since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December, 14 laws have passed nationwide making it harder to access guns.

The number of laws passed nationwide making it easier to access guns? 37.

Gun advocates — and the Supreme Court — have, in effect and with almost uninterrupted success, been arguing for more rights without comparable responsibilities.

Our national mantra should be: The greater the rights, the greater the responsibilities. That, I'm reasonably sure, was the intent of the framers of the Constitution when they added the Second Amendment. They weren't the kind of men who advocated rights without responsibilities.

The gun rights advocates in our working group have acknowledged the need for responsibility. That's encouraging and exciting.

But you can't impose responsibilities on gun rights advocates. That could only be done through legislation and our state and federal lawmakers have already proven they are completely incapable of doing so.

And even if they did, imposition doesn't work without buy-in. Gun rights advocates need to voluntarily accept greater responsibility to go with the greater rights they now enjoy. That starts with NRA members pressuring their leadership to be more responsible in their positions, less absolute and inflexible.

Gun owners tend to be politically conservative, and conservatives are all about personal responsibility and accountability, as opposed to government telling us what to do.

So do it. We can't force law-abiding gun owners to be more responsible. We can only ask them to be our allies in a national effort to make guns less accessible to people who shouldn't have them — even if that means accepting more inconvenience in the process.

We're asking what responsibilities you are willing to accept.

For the good of all. For the safety of all.



Reader Comments

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Goof from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 3:34 PM

Well Mr.Trainor got at least 15 people to read his article. If I were him I would be laughing knowing that I could write something whether I believe it or not to cause others to read past the title. Use the title that includes guns or another controversial subject and the WJ gets readers. Nicely played Ken. Maybe I should write an article "goofs with non-factual opinions". Can't comment if you don't read the article can you?


Posted: July 25th, 2013 1:17 AM

Even more dangerous is giving ignorant writers a platform so that goofs like Trainor can spout lies and ignore facts to support an agenda. 1)Trainor feels qualified to label Zimmerman based SOLELY on media reports, having never met the man in person. simply childish name calling by ken 2)Martin may have been unarmed but attacked Zimmerman- ask daley's nephew how easy it is to kill a man with a punch. 3) Trainor clearly lies as GZ was already out of the car + was returning when TM jumped him

Ray Simpson from Oak Park  

Posted: July 25th, 2013 12:17 AM

Ken, you still harp on what I am required to submit to - without your putting any skin into the game. If it is fair and reasonable for me to submit to the endless list of demands you are authoring - I ask what you are willing to give up. So far your side has offered nothing but self serving demands. Remember, the law is on our side right now and anything you propose MUST be in keeping with that interpretation of the Bill of Rights. You cannot just wish that away. Your terror of the concealed carry is unfounded in light of the history in every other state in the union. The process of obtaining a CC permit is thorough and comprehensive. The average gun owner has little need for this permit and few will apply for it. In all of the other states it has been between 3.5% and 5% of eligible gun owners look for CC permits. You anguish over things of which you are blissfully ignorant. Being so committed to a failed ideology you mount crusades against opponents who are far more versed in the facts and real world actualities.


Posted: July 24th, 2013 5:45 PM

If someone thinks he is being disrespected and then crosses the line with physical violence, well, that sounds like a goof to me. No "group," no matter how you subdivide us, has cornered the market on being treated badly. Kids need their fathers and mothers to both be there, if at all possible, as good examples and teachers.


Posted: July 24th, 2013 4:53 PM

"Goofs with guns may be the greatest threat to public safety". That may be in the top 10 dumbest comments I've heard during this national debate. Since Trayvon was killed by a "goof with a gun", over 700 have been murdered in Chicago, alone, by the criminals you fools continue to turn a blind eye to. As those living in those neighborhoods who is the biggest threat to public safety...some random overzealous neighborhood watchman or the young "goofs" in their own communities.


Posted: July 24th, 2013 3:48 PM

No outrage over the southside daily killings because the goofs in the MSM have not been instructed by the community disorganizer in chief to dare speak of this. To speak of this only reinforces & points to the failure of liberalism over the past 50 years. The goofs are directed daily by the White House on what propaganda talking points can be passed on to you drones, Ken, for further weekly disgusting regurgitation here.

@Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 2:10 PM

Fair trade! I'd take it. Fairly high overlap between uninformed voters and gun owners so actually you lose a pretty big chunk of citizens on your side in that deal.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 1:51 PM

Wow, that is the silliest and most asinine thing you have ever written Mr Trainor. Maybe you should get your facts straight before your 'goof with a keyboard' self decides to write an opinion piece.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 1:37 PM

I think the bigger issue is goofs who are allowed to vote. Let's make a trade, Ken. I'll accept tougher gun legislation if we can put some limits on voting to ensure only those with basic knowledge of our Republic, current political and fiscal issues, and Federal tax payers can vote. With voting rights come responsibility to be an informed voter. I wager the goofs voting do more net damage than the goofs with guns.

Howard Hunter  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 12:50 PM

Trainor is a troll. You all bit. Why? Blood lust? So defensive. it's a beautiful day. Go outside, Play with your grandkids.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 12:25 PM

Ken Trainor not being honest in an op-ed about guns? I'm shocked...shocked! Ken, the far bigger danger in this country are the "goofs with pens/blogs/microphones" who can spew misinformation and soft bigotry with little consequence. You know, like the entire mainstream press & local gadfly's like Ken here. The Zimmerman/Martin issue was blown entirely out of proportion by left-leaning media types, & the verdict & public opinion has blown up in their faces, no pun intended.

2nd Amendment from Oak Park  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 12:10 PM

Saying "Gun owners tend to be conservatives" is like saying illegal gun owners and illegal gun users tend to vote democrat. I prefer "respectful law abiding gun owners tend to agree with the Constitution".

dont be scurrrred  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 12:06 PM

And yet, violent crime is at near record lows all over the country.

OP Transplant  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 12:00 PM

Ken - I don't think you're being honest here. I think you know that relatively few of the crimes involving firearms are committed by the legal owners of the the firearms. People who are seeking a gun for illegal purposes are unlikely to adhere strictly to the law when obtaining the gun. But you knew that, right?

Charles Barkely from Orlando Fla  

Posted: July 24th, 2013 11:12 AM

"Well, I agreed with the verdict. I feel sorry that young kid got killed but they did not have enough evidence to charge Zimmerman. I think Trayvon Martin, God rest his soul, I think he (Trayvon) did flip the switch and started beating the hell out of Mr. Zimmerman." A person has the right to defend themself, despite Mr. Trainor's rant!!! BTW Ken why no outrage on all the Chicago killings?

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