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Jay Caruso: Democrats should skip lying about gun control

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Jay Caruso, Dallas Morning News

Emotions run high after a tragic event like the mass shooting that took place in Las Vegas recently. With at least 58 confirmed deaths and hundreds wounded, the motive of the killer, Stephen Paddock, is still not known.

Jay Caruso
Jay Caruso

What we do know is, Paddock had a large cache of weapons he used to fire on 22,000 concertgoers for almost 11 minutes before he took his own life as authorities began to close in. In the aftermath of such shootings, politics almost always enters the fray.

Republicans should not be afraid of having the conversation about gun violence and gun control.

That said, it is difficult to have a conversation when Democrats don't offer any specific ideas about which there can be a discussion, or worse, when they're dishonest about the issue.

Some of the most oft-repeated phrases following a mass shooting are, "We must do something!" and "We have to act!" Such expressions make for great political fodder on television.

The subtext is Person A is willing to do something while Person B wants to do nothing.

The problem with such rhetoric is that it doesn't allow for any debate. People need to put forward ideas. It doesn't mean people will agree, but at least at that point, there can be a discussion.

Unfortunately, that doesn't happen often and when pressed, those shouting, "Do something!" don't have much of a clue what it is they want to do.

Recently on MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-host Willie Geist asked Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., for specific ideas that would prevent a shooting as we saw in Las Vegas.

Himes had nothing to say beyond mumbling something about universal background checks. Paddock passed all the necessary background checks to acquire his guns, so Himes' idea wouldn't have made a difference.

There can be no debate without reasonable ideas from Democrats.

Merely shouting, "Do something!" is not a solution.

As for dishonesty, many Democrats claim Republicans overturned an Obama-era rule that prevented firearms from being sold to those with mental illness.

That is not true.

The rule Obama put in place requires the Social Security Administration to forward the names of all Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefit recipients who use somebody to help manage their benefits due to a mental impairment to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

It effectively denies them their Second Amendment rights and their right to due process.

Democrats claim it was the National Rifle Association that pushed for it to be reversed. While the NRA did support the reversal of the rule, so did the ACLU, the American Association of People with Disabilities, National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Coalition of Mental Health Recovery, as well as many other groups.

Not all people who have mental illness are a danger to themselves or others.

The ACLU's strongly worded letter makes clear why the regulation ran afoul of civil liberties.

What if Donald Trump put a rule in place saying the same people could have their social media and email accounts shut down (First Amendment), their homes searched without a warrant (Fourth Amendment) or their computers and phones taken away at will (Fifth Amendment)?

How loudly would those same Democrats be screeching?

There is no favor for one constitutional right over another. They are all to be respected equally.

The fact is, federal law still prohibits guns from being sold to those "committed to a mental institution" or "adjudicated as a mental defective."

If Democrats want to do something they may have to look at making it easier for judges to rule on people being dangerously mentally ill, so they are prevented from purchasing firearms.

So by all means, let's talk about preventing what we saw in Las Vegas from happening again.

But let's move beyond shouting "Do something!" to offering up concrete ideas. Let's also have an honest dialogue and stop resorting to falsehoods to advance a political agenda.

Let's hear it.

JAY CARUSO is a member of The Dallas Morning News editorial board. Email: jay.caruso@dallasnews.com.