There are a couple different shades of meaning to the word “exploit,” but when you say it angrily, you rarely mean it in a good way.

As the dictionary might say:

Use (a situation or person) in an unfair or selfish way.

The “e” word has been tossed around today in connection with calls for tighter restrictions on handguns; and to be honest, I wasn’t crazy about the timing… in light of the all-too recent events in Virginia. But “exploitation?” How is it unfair or selfish? Was a gun involved? Can an honest argument be made that the tragedy could have been avoided with tighter regulation of handgun sales? How many of the victims (or their family and friends) would make the same arguments? Was it exploitation (in the bad sense, as defined above) to use 9/11 as an argument for tighter airport security? Is it exploitation to point to outbreaks of salmonella as evidence of greater need to inspect the food supply?

As I said, the only objection I have is the timing. It’s always safer to debate issues when people are less emotional. Having said that, if debating gun control now is “exploitation,” then the same should be said of the 107th Congress… when they introduced the Patriot Act on October 2, 2001.

Give the gift of words.