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The Tentacle


April 27, 2007

The Slippery Slope Syndrome

George Wenschhof

Political positions on many hot-button issues are often formulated and defended with the thought of the slippery slope syndrome. This occurs more often than not, as opposed to striving to find a reasonable, fair and effective middle ground solution.

The concern by interest groups and political parties is that if any compromise occurs on their position on an issue, it will erode their standing. Then it will only be a matter of time before this slippery slope would result in all being lost pertaining to their stand on the matter.

It is this persuasive thought that leads to the divisive partisan politics that exists today. Voters are increasingly being turned off by this approach and desire a more reasonable discussion of the issues with results that bring people together rather than pushing them apart.

Two examples of how political dogma continues to polarize are opinions pertaining to a woman's "right to choose" and the public's "right to bear arms." I am not going to attempt to present in detail the positions that exist on these issues. Rather, I will attempt to point out that reasonable middle ground positions are often drowned out by the more extreme positions advocated by both sides.

The expression of their concerns on these issues by political parties will again be highlighted with the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech and the 5-4 of the Supreme Court upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.

The horrific loss of life at Virginia Tech at the hands of a fellow student has saddened people from all over the world. Questions as to why and how this could happen began almost simultaneously as events unfolded.

One question pertained to current gun-control laws with a focus on background checks after the media reported that the perpetrator had been referred for psychological counseling.

The concern was this: did Virginia state law or federal law address preventing the sale of a gun to a person known to be suffering from mental illness? Issuing a flag during the background check will most likely be the area addressed by lawmakers. With a presidential election a year away, Democratic Party leaders have signaled they will not be bringing up the hot-button issue of gun control.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) and pro-gun advocates quote the second amendment to our Constitution and its statement in part "...the right to bear arms." as the reason not to issue any form of gun-control laws.

They argue that any regulation pertaining to the ownership and use of firearms would be the beginning of the "slippery slope" and, the first thing you know, gun owners would have to register their gun and next the government would take their guns from them.

As a young man I hunted on occasion and vaguely remember my parents enrolling me in a care and use of guns class at the Flair Armory located on Rocky Springs Road in Frederick. I attended this class prior to be allowed to hunt.

On one outing, as we were going up a row of trees attempting to flush out quail, I experienced the frightening sound of buck shot hitting the leaves in the trees above us. Someone had shot across the field at their target without being aware we were on the other side of the field.

Making sure that everyone understands the rules prior to heading out to hunt only makes sense. Requiring a person to enroll and complete a firearm safety and handling course prior to being allowed to purchase a gun also makes sense.

This would not stop all bad people from doing bad things; but it would ensure that gun owners had completed such a training course. It is also well documented that concerning crimes of passion, a cooling off period aides in the reduction of bodily harm to another.

The NRA conducts a free Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program for children in pre-kindergarten through the third grade and should be commended for this program.

They should also put their support behind requiring all gun purchasers to complete a gun safety and handling course prior to being allowed to purchase a gun. In fact, the NRA could be certified as an authorized instructor of this course and make considerable fees for their organization.

The recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 has some women's rights organizations including NARAL Pro-Choice America, fearing the slippery slope syndrome.

They fear this is just the beginning toward the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision commonly referred to as the law that provided women with freedom of choice regarding abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America was founded in 1969, four years prior to the Roe v. Wade decision, and has become a powerful voice for women's rights.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said "law does not violate constitutional right to abortion." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman on the court, wrote in a minority opinion that the majority opinion "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away a right declared again and again by this court, and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women's lives."

Immediately following the Supreme Court ruling, Democrat candidates for president issued statements denouncing the decision. The statement put out by John Edwards was by Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro-Choice America for 22 years, who is now a member of his campaign staff.

For those who oppose a woman's right to choose, the use of the non-medical term "partial-birth" was used to graphically depict a horrific act. Middle to late second trimester abortions are more commonly referred to as late-term abortions and are a procedure that is rarely performed by physicians.

So this argument becomes cloudy as both sides of this overall issue of a woman's right to choose are concerned with the slippery slope syndrome.

Pro-life supporters want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and women's rights organizations want to protect a woman's right to choose. What gets lost is a reasonable discussion concerning parameters surrounding a late term abortion.

Discussion of parental notification by a minor also is lost in this over arching concern of women's rights. Requiring a minor to notify a parent, counselor, or reasonable adult prior to having an abortion seems to have merit and may provide aid and comfort to a young woman during a difficult time.

Positions on these two hot-button issues are generally associated by political party. Republicans are often associated with "pro-life" and the "right to bear arms" positions. Democrats are often associated with "gun-control" and "women's rights" positions.

It would be refreshing to have the argument contain reasonable discussion about what is best without pitting Americans against each other with this all-or-nothing approach to hot-button issues.

Americans deserve reasonable, fair and effective representation. As a voter, make sure you demand it.



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