We accept a surveillance state but not gun control?

As the Boston Marathon bombing case reminds us, we are potentially all under constant surveillance when we walk down the streets of an American city. Our public movements are videotaped, who we interact with is observed, and our cell phone calls readily traced. We accept these gross incursions on our civil liberties because, well, look what they've done! We got the bad guys! And, as testified to by the deliriously cheering crowds in Watertown who had been ordered to stay locked in their homes for the day, the loss of liberty and freedom entailed was well worth the price.

Yet just a few days earlier, the country was in the grip of the "gun control" debate. The ideas of restricting the sales of military-style weapons or large capacity magazines had gone by the boards, and we were left with the hope that some of the glaring loopholes in the background checks procedure could at least be closed (to try to prevent murderers in Boston from getting guns and killing policemen, for example).

Despite overwhelming support among Americans, this hope was dashed when Congress could not stand up to the gun manufacturers, their lobbyists and apologists, and some ordinary well-meaning citizens, who argued that, no, simply requiring proof that all prospective gun purchasers were not crazy, or criminal, or terrorists would represent an unacceptable infringement on our constitutional rights.

The Boston case also reminds us that evil people are indeed out there. We cannot prevent them from buying pressure cookers, but making it easier for evil people to get guns, which our current, inadequate background-check laws do, makes us all less secure.

Full civil rights or complete safety — we cannot have both. Good guys can accept the need stricter controls on guns; let's be sure to vote out the politicians who disagree.

Bradley Alger, Baltimore

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