Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), right, and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) finish a news… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)
As I've noted before, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in December, most Times readers who write letters on gun control favor strong action by Congress. But the coincidence this week of a mass knife attack in Texas and a compromise in the Senate on expanded background checks for firearms buyers has emboldened pro-gun rights readers.
Their point: Passing a law that in any way restricts the sale of guns to Americans (via background checks, waiting periods or any other "infringement") won't stop those dead-set on killing people from reaching for whatever weapon they can find. In other words, the Texas college student accused of wounding 14 people (two of them critically) with a knife would have been able to go on a rampage even with an improved background check system for guns in place.
So far Wednesday, nearly a dozen readers have written letters making this point. Apple Valley resident Elliot Fried is one of them:
"Now that 14 people have been stabbed in Texas, it's clear that knives must be strictly controlled. For starters, a limit on blade size must be put into effect. Who really needs a knife with a blade longer than two inches? Background checks should also be put into place and a cutlery registry enacted. Better yet, why not transition to plastic knives that would break if used for anything more strenuous than spreading butter?"
Dick Ettington of Palos Verdes Peninsula was more blunt:
"With two nasty knife attacks in schools lately, I presume President Obama will add knives to his 'abolish guns' plan."
Teresa C. Yu of Rancho Palos Verdes anticipated this argument and wrote a rebuttal frequently offered by gun control advocates:
"Like one person quoted in The Times' article, I too 'thank God it was a knife.' If it were a gun, it's likely that most or all of the attacker's 14 stabbed victims would be dead.
"The mantra that 'guns do not kill, people kill people' is valid. Indeed, there are plenty of bad guys and crazy people around who harm others. But guns cause so much damage so quickly, far worse that what a person wielding a baseball bat, knife or a rope would achieve.
"Strict gun control is a necessity to minimize carnage should an attack unfortunately happen."
There are certainly worthy pro-gun arguments to be made in the current gun control debate. Namely, I find Sam Harris' piece questioning whether more firearms laws are the answer to be a thoughtful post-Newtown take from a gun owner. But here, in the knives vs. guns standoff, I find responses like the one from Yu (and this topic will be addressed on Thursday's letters page) to be far more persuasive. After all, there's a reason police officers draw pistols instead of switchblades.
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