Perhaps now, the thought already is being voiced, "they" will see the wisdom of gun control legislation.
"They," one guesses, are conservative Republicans who are supposed to change their minds about the peoples' "right to bear arms" now that "their" president has been wounded by a handgun too easily obtained by a man of unstable mind.
There are least a couple of problems with the supposition. First, there is the implication that "they" are concerned primarily because Monday's mindless attack was against a conservative president. (The other side of that libel is that the rest of us should be relatively unconcerned.) Whatever the flaws in the anti-gun control position, there is no reason to suppose that its proponents base their attitudes on the political beliefs of gunshot victims.
Second, there is the implication that an adequate gun control statute would have prevented Monday's mayhem. I don't see how it could have.
Perhaps it's true that, given a really tough anti-gun law, the suspect might have been in prison as a result of his arrest at a Nashville airport last October when he was found to have three handguns in his luggage. Then again, if he knew the penalty for trying to bring the weapons on board a commercial airliner was a stiff prison sentence, he might not have tried.
It is also true that a gun control law worthy of the name would have made it impossible for him to have bought another handgun legally after the Nashville arrest. But it is hard to see how the mere difficulty of buying a handgun legally would discourage a determined assassin. And if the gun law required only that he register his weapon, how could that have prevented anything at all?
I agree that there are altogether too many weapons floating around out there, and it makes no sense to me that the National Rifle Association or anyone else should oppose efforts to stop adding to that lethal pool. If I could wave an electromagnetic wand over the world and gather up all the handguns, legal or illegal, I just might do it. But given the availability of weapons on the street, there does seem to be some logic in the NRA's contention that "when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."
Gun laws of the sort already on the books in some states and the District of Columbia assuredly reduce the risk of accidental shootings, or of homicides resulting from momentary rage -- which is reason enough to support such legislation. But none of this has the slightest meaning for Monday.
The main reason it comes up at all is our urge to impose logic on mind-boggling illogicality, as a way of reestablishing our sense of control. For that same reason, we will call on doctors of the mind to tell us that this week's assault could have been foreseen and prevented. We simply don't want to believe that some tragedies are essentially unpreventable, that there is no way to curb those sick-minded people who seek to give meaning to their pointless lives by engaging in dramatic evil.
What is worth some thoughtful attention now are the political implications of the attempt on the president's life. It's well enough to be glad that the suspect isn't black, or Arab, or a liberal activist. But still, one result is likely to be the restoration of the "imperial presidency." A wounded Ronald Reagan will, for a time, be immune from political attack. Political opponents and journalists who might have criticized some of his policies as insensitive, or divisive, or wrongheaded, will very likely start searching for something in his proposals that they can support.
There's danger in that -- a danger that the president himself can reduce by recognizing that the enhanced authority and power he gained from the attempt on his life must not mean that his policies are no longer subject to debate.
America is grateful that his life was spared, and wishes him a full and speedy recovery. The president knows that.
But the national outpouring of sympathy does not confer infallibility. I hope he knows that, too.