Congressman Tim Ryan, who represents all of Trumbull County and some of Portage County, has quite a task before him. The Congressman, a Democrat in a solidly Democratic district, must walk a fine line on the issue of gun control.
As a member of the Vienna Fish and Game club, I know that he has the respect of many members as a friend of the Second Amendment. However, he belongs to a party that is rushing headlong into piling on gun restrictions, supposedly in response to the tragic shootings in Connecticut.
This poses a quandary for him: Does he go along with the party leadership, which is bent on imposing what many think are draconian new restrictions, or does he side with the very large gun enthusiast population, which strongly opposes such measures?
In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I ran against Mr. Ryan three years ago for his seat in Congress.
Last week I e-mailed the congressman to ask if he would support the majority of gun enthusiasts who do not want any additional restrictions on lawful gun ownership. I received a polite response containing the obligatory mention of the Newtown tragedy along with his promise to work to insure adequate funding for mental health services. Mental health, or the lack of it, seems to be a key ingredient in these mass shootings, so I was glad to see him address it.
The email went on to say that he was looking forward to a national discussion on how to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. He added that everything would be on the table, including background checks, high capacity magazines, armor-piercing bullets and assault weapons. He seemed not to notice that, other than the background checks, none of those items up for discussion have anything to do with keeping weapons out of the hands of criminals.
In an article in last week's Tribune Chronicle, Ryan again attempted to bridge the great divide between the Democrat Party's leadership, who, if one is to be charitable, would call constitutionally challenged, and America's gun owners, who are legion. He said he ''wants to take the temperature'' of different interest groups, you know, ''get their opinions.''
Learning little from his e-mail, I learned less from his article; it consisted of about 350 words and provided not a hint of what he believes.
It should go without saying that anyone who tries to find the middle ground between ''reasonable reforms,'' as the Democrats like to put it, and ''shall not infringe,'' is doomed to failure. Ryan does not understand that you can take the ''temperature of interest groups" when you are trying to decide whether or not to build a federal dam. You can ''look for common ground'' when you are trying decide on what the tax rate should be, but there cannot be any ''reasonable reform'' to an Amendment to the United States Constitution. If you don't like one of them, there is a provision to change it, and neither presidential edict nor congressional action alone can do it.
Consider for a moment that, long ago, when Congress decided to prohibit the use of alcohol (which, I'm sure you know, is not protected in our Constitution), they had to amend the Constitution (the 18th Amendment). The ''Prohibition'' Amendment took two years to bring about.
Now, Ryan and his Democrat colleagues seem to think that they can infringe on gun ownership, which is explicitly protected under the Constitution, simply with a law or edict from Congress or the president, and have it all wrapped up in a few weeks.
You can tell in Ryan's tone that he's praying that Diane Feinstein's gun ban bill never makes its way to the House because, unlike many issues that break along party lines, the gun issue doesn't. There are plenty of loyal Democrats watching to see which side their respective representatives come down on. Will he try to thread the needle, or will he stand up for the Second Amendment?
Moadus is a Girard resident. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.