No, that was not a rhetorical question.

No, that was not a rhetorical question.

Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander is getting blasted on the Internet from gun rights advocates after posting on Twitter what I thought was a pretty non-threatening comment: “I do not understand people who support public ownership of assault style weapons like the AR-15 used in the Colorado massacre.”

I don’t understand it either. Gun rights proponents may be feeling besieged right about now but that wasn’t Alexander’s intent, nor is it mine. If the discussion on guns and violence is to move anywhere beyond threats about peeling weapons from cold dead fingers, it will have to start with an intelligent parsing of the issue. Gun ownership is here to stay, protected not just by the Second Amendment but by those of us who believe in the option of owning a gun. We have to be able to talk about assault-style weapons, armor-piercing bullets and other lethal things that boggle the mind, without stoking outrage that we’re trampling on the Constitution or fear that we’re about to ban hunting.

That said, here’s a very well-argued rebuttal to Alexander’s opinion.

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UPDATE: This New York Times editorial gets at the heart of my point, which is that public policy debates about access to lethal weapons are not only appropriate, they’re urgent. From the Times piece: “With the ease of downloading a song, anyone with a computer and a credit card can order thousands of bullets and shotgun shells on the Internet, along with tear-gas canisters and speed loaders. They can get the same high-capacity ammunition clips that infantry soldiers use. They can even get bulletproof vests and SWAT helmets. All without fear of a single background check.”

Why is this a problem? Because as the Times goes on to say, “No one is paying attention to whether buyers have criminal histories or mental-health records. No one is monitoring bulk sales of ammunition to see who might be building an arsenal.”