Our Opinion: Making a statement via legislation

Using the legislative process to make a statement is getting ridiculous — and polarizing.

The national debate on gun control has prompted federal and state legislation, including more than 15 measures in Missouri’s Capitol.

Among the most recent is a proposal by state Rep. Mike Leara, R-St. Louis County, to criminalize sponsorship of gun control legislation.

His bill follows a proposal by state Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City, to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

Leara, by his own admission, has joined the debate to make a statement.

“I have no illusions about the bill making it through the legislative process,” Leara said, “but I want it to be clear that the Missouri House will stand in defense of the people’s constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

A statement, however, is not a contribution, and critics might be tempted to call Leara’s comments grandstanding.

Leara didn’t say whether he filed his legislation/statement in response to Ellinger’s legislation, which other lawmakers — but not the sponsor — have characterized as “making a statement.”

Because the right to bear arms is contained in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we believe gun control issues largely belong at the federal level.

Exceptions exist, particularly those that relate to public safety, like a proposal to permit gun safety programs in schools.

Using legislation to make a statement is dangerous because it encourages polarization rather than conciliation.

If lawmakers gravitate to opposing sides, they are less likely to build toward or reach consensus on gun-related issues, including firearms safety for children.

Any lawmakers compelled to make a statement may issue a news release rather than clog the serious business of lawmaking with a superfluous bill.

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