LETTER TO THE EDITOR: One man’s ‘extreme’ could be another man’s ‘mainstream’

In the March 31 Delaware State News, Sen. Ernie Lopez outlined his positions on various gun laws that have come before the General Assembly in the wake of the Feb. 14 massacre at a Florida high school.

Lopez, a Republican, said he supports the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act and that he voted for House Bill 174, which increases penalties for those purchasing guns on behalf of others.

So Lopez can point to some progress. But he went too far both in claiming support from young people and in criticizing those who feel his efforts have fallen short.

In the column, Lopez says, unsurprisingly, that not all gun-related legislation has had unanimous support.

He then adds, “With that said, these laws will continue to make Delaware schools the safe haven they are from gun violence. Thankfully, many students recognize this fact as do countless other young people who have called, stopped me in the district or written to me in recent weeks.”

But today’s “safe haven” could be tomorrow’s crime scene.

By Sen. Lopez’s definition of schools as safe havens, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School was a safe haven until Feb. 14, 2018 and Sandy Hook Elementary School, until December 14, 2012.

Lopez also writes, “Their understanding and sincere desire for increased safety enhancements stands in stark contrast to the messages from many politically partisan adults who see only through their own tunnel of party affiliation as opposed to the larger and more important policy piece which encompasses safety.”

Really? Who is Lopez to say that these adults lack a “sincere desire for increased safety?”

And does Sen. Lopez have polls to support his claim that young people’s opinions and attitudes are “in stark contrast” to their elders?

It sure didn’t seem that way in Florida. There, young people led the charge, with “I call BS!” their rallying cry.

Lopez says that the Biden Act, which he supports, “steers clear of the noxious and divisive argument over whether to ban or not ban certain types of weapons.” He said that people who support such legislation are “extreme.”

Lopez is referring to Senate Bill 163, which would ban assault rifles.

But how “divisive” and “extreme” is S.B. 163?

Here are three recent surveys about banning AR-15 military-style rifles. More can be found online.

• In the Harvard CAPS-Harris survey, 61 percent favored a ban.

• The Business Insider-MSN poll showed 70 percent favored a ban, including 52 percent of Republicans.

• The Quinnipiac University poll had 67 percent supporting a ban.

If 3 percent of Americans were demanding a ban on AR-15 rifles you could rightly call them “extremists.” If 33 percent were making that demand, you’d need to drop the “extremist” label.

If 60 percent and up support such a ban, their views represent a solid majority — in others words, mainstream opinion.

Is it “noxious” or harmful for adults to aggressively lobby for a bill that enjoys mainstream support?

Thank goodness we’ve had people willing to step up and make “divisive” and “noxious” arguments. Without them, we’d still have Jim Crow laws; tainted meat and untested medicines; unsafe cars and factories; and women unable to vote or own property.

The list goes on and on. Virtually all of what we now consider progress started out as “divisive” issues, including Social Security.

Come to think of it, our Founding Fathers were a pretty “divisive” bunch and King George III likely considered them quite “noxious.”

The problem with Lopez’s definition of “divisive” is that it effectively allows the small but vocal minority who oppose the assault weapon ban a virtual veto before lawmakers even cast a vote, thus ignoring the will of the majority of voters.

And the problem with Lopez’s comments about “divisive” and “noxious” arguments is that they amount to little more than thinly veiled name calling.

Sen. Lopez’s constituents deserve to be treated with more respect.

Don Flood

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