Wiser approach to guns are needed

Last week Terrebonne Parish Councilman Darrin Guidry withdrew a proposed ordinance that sparked spirited — and sometimes impolite — discussion centering on gun control.

The ordinance, as explained by Guidry, would have barred weapons from Terrebonne Parish Library property. As we reported several issues back, Guidry said he crafted the ordinance at the request of the library system’s director.

We fully understand her concerns, which were sparked by a tragic school shooting in Florida that had repercussions nationwide, the Bayou Region included. Council members are gatekeepers as much as they are purveyors of legislation. In this respect, Councilman Guidry might have done better with some up-front research. As he discovered after several conversations with folks whose understanding of state laws regarding firearms is up-to-date, there were conflicts. Louisiana laws, passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, set specifics as to where and when firearms may be possessed and by whom. Several battles have occurred in Baton Rouge and more are likely, in the future, over restrictions on firearms.

Before proceeding further in comment concerning Guidry’s proposal, we should mention that until 2014 he owned The Times but sold all interests in the paper to Rushing Media and has no connection to it. He therefore has no influence on our stories, editorials or operations.

That said, we understand how he or any other legislator, presented with a concern by such an outstanding citizen as Mary LeBoeuf, whose work in directing our libraries is at this point legend, might be moved to address it. This was the wrong request, however.

As the ordinance was written, nobody could enter a library with a firearm or other weapon. Library employees could challenge an individual who did so. If the person did not leave voluntarily employees were free to call the police, who could take further action. Guidry said this would not include persons with permits to carry concealed weapons. But this was not clear in the initial text of the ordinance. What Guidry learned after several discussions was that the library is free to develop its own policies and does not need the imprimatur of the Terrebonne Parish Council to do so. To what degree the library may restrict firearms, if that is desired by its board, will have to be addressed by its members at such time as they may decide to take up such a matter.

We are concerned, however, by some of the discussion that ensued in relation to the ordinance. On social media and elsewhere, we saw insults and criticism directed toward Guidry that were in many cases disingenuous, parroting arguments related to gun control that we have all been familiar with in national forums. The force of such arguments is disturbing because it is indicative of problems that lurk if and when the council — or for that matter the Legislature– attack issues relating to guns which need to be addressed. When that occurs, it is our hope that both sides will conduct themselves in a civil manner.

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. It is therefore people who require controls and in some cases raps on the knuckles when their actions regarding firearms place themselves and others in jeopardy.

Legally possessed firearms are left in unlocked vehicles, sometimes overnight, with alarming frequency. Neither local ordinance nor state law address this reckless behavior. Times interviews with lawmakers have resulted in neither commitment nor favor for establishment of fines for it. Leaving a firearm unattended in an unlocked vehicle almost guarantees that it will end up in the wrong hands if stolen. And while we cannot prevent every gun crime through proactive measures, certainly this issue deserves fair hearing. Also, concern exist regarding the ease with which people with histories of multiple non-voluntary placements in psychiatric care can obtain firearms, because in most cases those commitments don’t make it into anyone’s database.

Untested band-aid approaches to guns do not bode well for the potential of serious discussion on firearms related matters. Likewise, knee-jerk rather than clear intellectual responses to reasonable regulation attempts are not helpful.

It is our hope that discussion of firearms safety in our local parishes can occur in an open, civil and productive matter, just like discussion of any other issue.