When Naples Mayor Bill Barnett got word about the nation’s mayors taking a stand against illegal guns and the violence of which those guns can be a part, he took action that he might call a no-brainer.
He signed on.
In the process, he learned the hard way that guns and gun control are two of those matters that are hard to discuss rationally — especially via e-mail and the Internet.
He has become the target for a organized protest encouraged by the National Rifle Association and waged by gun-access and gun-ownership advocates across the country.
They argue, among other things, that the initiative Barnett supports could wind up working against gun owners who have licenses and actually dilute their rights.
While airing out this matter with City Council at a public meeting may have elicited some of this push-back in advance, we believe this is the kind of position-taking that a mayor is elected to do.
We also believe Barnett’s only intent is to make a statement in favor of public safety and in opposition to weapons imported and carried about illegally. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns drive, now backed by about 450 of Barnett’s colleagues nationally, says it focuses on enforcing existing gun laws, closing gaps in background checks and ensuring law-enforcement officers have the tools they need to prevent illegal guns in communities.
How any of that can be seen as a bad thing worthy of calls for Barnett’s ouster speaks to the extreme tenor of some components of public debate these days.
Sad, but true.