Tom Eblen

Yes, governor, we can try to regulate evil. But greed, cowardice are harder.

Gov. Matt Bevin spoke at the 2016 National Rifle Association convention in Louisville.
Gov. Matt Bevin spoke at the 2016 National Rifle Association convention in Louisville. Herald-Leader staff file photo

Amid all of the weak “condolences and prayers” the gun lobby’s political pawns have gushed this week, Gov. Matt Bevin attracted attention on Twitter with this tweet:

“To all those political opportunists who are seizing on the tragedy in Las Vegas to call for more gun regs...You can’t regulate evil...”

You can’t regulate evil, huh? Then I guess it’s time to repeal state and federal criminal codes, defund our police forces and disband the military. And while we’re at it, let’s reconsider those religious regulations known as the Ten Commandments.

Why waste money on border and airport security? No matter what we do, some evil person will find a way to hurt us. It could be a Muslim terrorist like Osama bin Laden, a Christian terrorist like Eric Rudolph or just a retired loner like Stephen Paddock, who lived quietly until he hoarded 23 weapons in a hotel room and fired out the window, murdering at least 59 people and wounding hundreds more.

Bevin might even want to stop abusing his authority to try to regulate Kentucky’s last abortion clinic out of business. Abortion is legal, but Bevin and many others consider it evil.

Of course, that isn’t what Bevin means. His comment is typical of politicians who are either in the pocket of the National Rifle Association or intimidated by the power that its scorched-earth tactics have on many conservative voters.

Remarks like Bevin’s are a favorite gun-lobby dodge, like the famous “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” It’s interesting that this logic is never applied to the “war on drugs,” which has filled our prisons to the point of bankruptcy.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Donald Trump’s press secretary, spouted a similar dodge, telling reporters hours after the Las Vegas massacre that it wasn’t the time to discuss gun control.

What she meant was there is never a time to discuss gun control. As the New York Times pointed out Tuesday, there have been 521 mass shootings in America in the 477 days since a man with a semi-automatic rifle and a semi-automatic pistol murdered 49 people in an Orlando nightclub on June 12, 2016.

Let’s be clear: I don’t hate guns. I grew up in a gun-owning family, and I’m a good shot. I enjoyed quail hunting and target shooting with my father. He was an avid gun collector who in the 1990s resigned his decades-old NRA membership because he thought the organization was promoting radical irresponsibility.

Only in recent years has the Second Amendment been interpreted to ignore its opening phrases: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

And keep in mind that this constitutional amendment was written by 18th-century gentlemen for whom “arms” meant single-shot rifles and pistols that took time to reload. Mass carnage by a lone gunman was simply not possible in their time.

To think modern firepower hasn’t played a role in mass shootings is beyond naïve. Yes, people kill people. And people with powerful guns can kill a lot of people very quickly and efficiently.

The NRA backed a bill that Trump signed into law in February that made it easier for mentally ill people to get guns. The organization is now pushing Congress to ease restrictions on silencers, which would make it harder for police in situations such as the Las Vegas massacre to find and stop mass murderers.

It is simply irresponsible to allow virtually anyone to possess military-grade weapons of mass destruction. Most other civilized countries have come to that conclusion. But the American gun lobby thrives on irresponsibility, convincing gun owners that any regulation is a slippery slope that will inevitably lead to a firearms ban.

Maybe if the drug cartels were smarter, they would form their own big-money lobbying group. They could argue that keeping cocaine and heroin illegal will surely lead to “big government” confiscating your aspirin and blood-pressure medicine.

There are many kinds of evil — the evil of murderers, and the evil of their political enablers. We can regulate evil to some extent, if we have the courage to try. Regulating greed and cowardice is harder.

James Ochsenbein, head of the camera department for Lexington-based Post Time Studios, recorded some video of the shooting at the Las Vegas concert that killed more than 50 people and injured more than 500. He and Chad Perkins hid in a production

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen