We can protect children, Constitution

Posted on Monday, January 28, 2013 at 2:31 pm

Scott DesJarlais

Scott DesJarlais

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, Special to The Times

It is hard to imagine anything more horrific than the December shooting that took place in Newtown, Connecticut. By the end of that fateful day, we learned that 20 first-graders and six educators had been shot and killed by a deranged gunman.

As a nation, we came together to pray and offer our deepest condolences to those who had lost a loved one. In the days and weeks following Sandy Hook, my office received numerous calls and letters from residents in Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District. It was touching to read and listen to these heartfelt expressions of sympathy.

Many of the individuals who contacted my office were concerned parents who wanted to know what we could do to ensure something like this never happens again. As a parent with three school aged children of my own, I share their concerns. Our children are our greatest treasure and should be treated as such.

But, while the overwhelming majority of parents I have spoken with recognize the need to enact sensible measures to protect our children, they are deeply concerned that this administration is using the tragedy at Sandy Hook as a way to limit their Second Amendment rights.

It is not surprising that the issue of gun control has grabbed headlines, especially after President Obama tasked Vice President Joe Biden to lead a taskforce with the goal of developing a package of proposals to curb gun violence.

Unfortunately, so far it seems that the administration is more focused on attacking our Second Amendment rights than truly addressing the underlying causes of gun violence. In fact, the president has stated on numerous occasions that he has no problem bypassing Congress through the use of executive orders to achieve his gun control objectives.

Lawful gun owners in my district have good reason for concern. This administration has a long track record of circumventing the Congress. The president bypassed the Senate confirmation process in appointing his “czars,” allowed the IRS to re-write portions of ObamaCare, unilaterally changed federal immigration policy and instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. The list goes on.

If the White House feels it must resort to the use of an executive order, it would signal that the president knows that his policies cannot pass Congress. Therefore, his actions would be in clear defiance of the will of the American people and our democratic process.

If the president seeks to violate our Constitution and degrade our Second Amendment rights, I stand ready to look at any and all available legislative and legal options to protect and maintain our separation of powers. I sincerely hope that the president will abandon this autocratic approach though and instead engage in a meaningful conversation.

I am a proud supporter of our Second Amendment and believe strongly in our right to bear arms. But I am also a parent and want to ensure that our children are kept safe. I, along with the vast majority of my constituents, do not believe these views to be mutually exclusive of one another.

I am reminded of a statement made by former Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia that, “It’s not a gun control problem; it’s a cultural control problem.” There are, in fact, real issues that Congress should address to ensure our children are protected, but infringing on our Second Amendment rights will not prevent troubled people from  committing terrible acts.

We can and must do a better job of ensuring those with mental health issues are identified and receive the support and counseling they need. That starts with making our mental health system more efficient and responsive. We can decide as a nation that we no longer want to promote a culture of violence and work with the key stakeholders to ensure our children are not being bombarded with violent imagery. Finally, we can do a better job of simply enforcing the laws that are already in existence.

President Obama stated that Sandy Hook was the worst day of his presidency. I believe him. But that is not an excuse for the president to use executive orders to push through controversial gun control measures that run counter to the wishes of the majority of the American people.

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