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Let police do their job

Arkansas state Representative Nate Bell.

Danny Johnston/Associated Press

Arkansas state Representative Nate Bell.

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Arkansas state representative Nate Bell richly deserved every brickbat he received from irate Bostonians last week. Even as the tense manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev unfolded in Watertown, the conservative lawmaker took to Twitter to sneer at residents. “I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?” he wrote.

After a torrent of criticism, Bell has rightly apologized for his “poor choice of timing.” But in the same statement, he stood by his support for “the individual right to self-defense,” as if a heavily armed populace would have been better protected against Tsarnaev. He’s wrong on that score, too.

If anything, police and the public are lucky that amateur “good guys with guns” — the NRA’s solution to gun-fueled mayhem — didn’t make Friday’s events more tragic and chaotic than they already were. Individual citizens wielding high-powered weapons, no matter their good intentions, could as easily have shot at the wrong target or been mistaken for a threat themselves. The fight against dangerous terrorism suspects should be left to trained police officers.

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