Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Kelly is a target because he wants to curb guns; ignore the distractions

2013-03-28T00:00:00Z 2013-03-28T00:06:48Z Sarah Garrecht Gassen: Kelly is a target because he wants to curb guns; ignore the distractionsSarah Garrecht Gassen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

We've come to the distraction part of the gun "debate." Look over there! It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Mark Kelly doing something!

Now, Mark Kelly has been in space, so maybe that counts as flying in this familiar recitation, but now firmly back on Earth, his every action is under scrutiny. Not because he's a former astronaut or combat veteran, an author, and not because he's the husband of the woman who, until she was shot in the head in front of a grocery store, represented Southern Arizona in Congress.

Mark Kelly is noteworthy because he has the temerity to say out loud what millions of Americans think: Our country's laws about guns don't make sense. They aren't consistent and they have gaping holes that endanger us all - and gun laws need to change.

This is why Mark Kelly is a target.

He's put himself out there, to be sure. But that's what you do to make people see the cost of our system. The cost of valuing guns above lives. That's what you do when you want to make change.

The thing is, Mark Kelly is not the crux of the matter. Finding ways to break through the stranglehold the gun lobby has on our lawmakers is the priority.

Kelly didn't help himself a whit when he decided to purchase an AR-15 at a Tucson gun shop. It was a spectacle that only served as a distraction. Look! He's trying to buy the kind of gun he says you shouldn't have!

He said later that he did it only to show how easy it is to buy one of these high-powered guns - but we know that already.

The gun store owner said he canceled the sale because Kelly said publicly that he planned to give the rifle to the Tucson Police Department and wasn't buying it for his personal use. Instead, the store owner is donating the weapon to the Arizona Tactical Officers Association to be raffled off as a fundraiser.

I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me the only difference between giving the weapon to TPD or the ATOA is that the association would raffle it off. In other words, "sell" it to an unknown third party.

Then we come to the infamous baby seal video that cropped up this week. It's a sad and disturbing scene.

The clip shows three women yelling and trying to pry a dog away from a baby seal it has clutched in its jaws on a California beach. Kelly appears in the frame and yanks the dog off the seal and leads it away. The seal, which appears dead, tumbles in the surf.

The dog belongs to Kelly's older daughter and does not live with Kelly and Giffords.

Now the seal video is everywhere.

The clip may have relevance in a discussion about dog safety, but it has nothing to do with gun safety.

The incident doesn't undercut the point that every gun sale should require a thorough background check. It adds nothing to the necessity of limiting large-capacity magazines that allow a shooter to fire more bullets in fewer seconds.

The killing power of the most ferocious or out-of-control canine will never match the cold, raw, lethal efficiency of a semi-automatic firearm.

But my, isn't it fun to lampoon Kelly as an "anti-gun fanatic" and a "gun basher" as the video is posted all over social media. People who oppose his positions are leaping to slam Kelly. Look at him just leave that dying seal! Look at what his dog did! Killer! And he wants to take our guns!

And the warning on some postings of the video clip is just too rich - "Caution: This video may be disturbing to some. Do not watch it if you think you cannot handle it!"

Yes, the video is disturbing. But so are 20 murdered children in a schoolhouse. Or six people murdered in front of a Tucson grocery store. Or people gunned down in a movie theater. The list goes on. You can probably recite it, too.

Why aren't these killings of humans disturbing enough to push common-sense laws to the fore? Why is a seal, killed by a dog, worthy of a caution warning because some people might be sensitive to it, but any impetus to change gun laws after the nation witnesses the carnage of mass shootings, of suicides by gun, of killings in our streets - is dismissed as an overly emotional reaction?

Ignore the distractions.

They're the shiny objects used to get the millions of people who support expanded background checks and limits on extended bullet clips off track.

Distraction prevents action. And that's the goal. Don't let it happen.

Sarah Garrecht Gassen writes opinion for the Arizona Daily Star. Her column appears Thursdays. Email her at sgassen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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