Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Bang, You're Dead

By Memphis Flyer editors

APRIL 6, 1998:  That old NRA maxim, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” takes on some horrific spin if you substitute the word “kids” for “people.” The ongoing slaughter of the innocents on the Mid-South’s schoolyards – four such catastrophes in recent months – makes it painfully clear that hoary slogans and traditional thinking just don’t suffice anymore on the subject of gun control. The rules have changed.

Somewhere, between the paranoia of the right and the dogmatism of the left, there must surely lie a realistic approach to firearms control. And, after the massacre at Westside Middle School, that formula must clearly include real restrictions on access to firearms for the very young.

We deny driver’s licenses to those under 16 because the law rightfully recognizes that the young do not possess the maturity or judgment necessary for safety behind the wheel. We restrict the use of alcohol by those under 21.

Similarly, we need to make it illegal for a child under a certain age to possess or use a firearm. Period. Parents or guardians flouting the law should incur fine or imprisonment. Surely any parent who would put a shotgun in the hands of a 6-year-old is a fool. And, while such practices may not be the norm for most hunting or gun-possessing families, society as a whole needs to be protected from the folly of a few.

There are no guarantees in life. Every day young people break our laws concerning the use of vehicles and alcohol, but at least those laws exist – to establish a clear social standard. No one’s freedom is at risk if we put age restrictions on gun possession or mandate trigger locks.

Jonesboro was irrefutable proof that society is in need of a safety mechanism. We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

No Proof of Conspiracy

There were no surprises in the Shelby County District Attorney General’s report last week upholding the guilt of James Earl Ray in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 30 years ago.

Despite that, the report deserves attention. Too often these days, flimsy conspiracy claims get more publicity than do the carefully documented findings of serious investigators. The D.A.’s office, working with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Memphis Police Department, and the Sheriff’s Office, spent good money and time on this most recent investigation. Their conclusion: The evidence against Ray is overwhelming, and neither cafe owner Lloyd Jowers nor the mysterious Raoul was involved in King’s murder.

It is long past time to lay this issue to rest, not that something that common-sensical is likely to happen. Conspiracy buffs like Ray’s attorney, Dr. William Pepper, will continue to peddle their claims as long as there are snake-oil addicts out there. The real issue is whether those claims are to be allowed equal standing with solidly sourced investigations.

We do, however, take issue with one statement in the report: “The investigation [did not] cover allegations that are so far-fetched as to be beyond the bounds of credibility. We will leave those theories to the tabloids.”

It was not the fringe media that gave airtime and column inches to Pepper and Jowers and caused this most recent round of rehashing. It was the mainstream media – local as well as national – that elevated bogus conspiracy theories to the same level as sworn affidavits and fully sourced, on-the-record interviews. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

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