I’d like to write something heartwarming today, like about my dog, or my husband, or maybe a friend I love. But really, I can’t get over how my heart aches over some of the attitudes I see.
The latest spate of gun violence, part of our daily news in the 21st century, has brought out a fulsome discussion of the issues on social media and on websites and the other mass media. The availability of guns to civilians is one of the hottest discussions. I won’t call it “gun control” because the NRA will probably put me on its hit list.
There’s nothing so passionate as people who want to defend their right to own weapons that have no purpose except to kill lots of people quickly. They respond to every why do we need these weapons question– it’s almost a knee-jerk response. It feels primitive, this my guns may be threatened so I need to defend it. Responsible gun control? They’re against any laws that promote it, even as they say they are responsible gun owners. They just don’t want responsible gun control.
My heart hurts when I read all the comments and discussion by gun proponents, whose chief purpose is to make sure they and others like them can remain armed. Some of them are insulting and crass. Some aren’t. But a surprising number are. I’ve never seen one propose a way to start solving the problem of gun violence. The only thing I HAVE seen is a defense of guns without any restrictions.
My heart hurts because many of these people see a threat around every corner and don’t believe law enforcement will be able to protect them. Well, I get that we live in a threatening world and there are some really, really bad people out there. The chances are slim to none that most of these people will ever see a threat that will require them to pull out their arsenals and defend themselves. We just haven’t reached that dystopia yet.
My heart hurts because some of the gun proponents act so detached about the kids who are killed. The bystanders who lose their lives. The targets of crazy people like homophobes. Oh, they’re not afraid to blame. They like to blame, especially Islamic terrorists. I’m not saying we shouldn’t blame. I’m saying that our lack of common-sense gun control is a key factor and gun fanatics refuse to see it.
Bad people would get guns anyway, is the response, just like they get drugs and alcohol. Oh that drugs and alcohol argument. You know, the one that says the war on drugs is lost, prohibition didn’t work, etc. Pretty specious argument. Sounds good but it’s not logical.
Besides, drugs and alcohol are mostly suicide vehicles, although many die at the hands of drunk drivers. Not so many at the hands of stoned drivers. Alcohol is legal. Prohibition wasn’t about saving lives, anyway. Just saying.
And then, I want to say, ok, bad guys gonna get guns anyway? Let’s extend that argument: Let’s make uranium and plutonium available to everyone. After all, they can find it on the black market. And while we’re at it, why not ricin and all sorts of bio warfare. Yes, let’s make it all available because they’ll get it anyway.
“Opinions are like assholes,” someone I know used to say, “everybody has one.” I think it’s good to have an opinion. I just wish there were more logical thinking, data-driven opinion and also more heart.
Guns. Now look. I was raised by a hunter. There were guns in the house. My father had to arm himself in the 1960s when he made house calls on sick kids in the ghetto during the riots in Rochester, NY just after the Watts riots. It was a handgun. He didn’t have to use it to protect himself but he had it. I have no problem with that.
My father was a responsible gun owner. Many gun owners are responsible.
But they deny any connection between the easy availability of guns and the violence in our society. Even though other countries that do not have our freedom to shop for all kinds of weapons have far lower rates of gun violence.
The United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has about 35–50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, according to a 2007 report by the Switzerland-based Small Arms Survey. It ranks number one in firearms per capita. The United States also has the highest homicide-by-firearm rate among the world’s most developed nations.
That, by the Council on Foreign Relations. It’s undeniable. No matter how much anyone wants to deny a cause-effect, it’s there.
The super-patriotism of many gun proponents is part of their costume, at least that’s the way I see it. A big component of that is how we are the best nation in the world and a model for all others. And I think that’s true in so many ways.
Just not on guns.
Other nations have us beat, by a long shot. And that’s why many aren’t seeing the massacres we see in the U.S. Now look, I get that horrible terrorist groups are always going to find a way, whether it’s bombs, beheading or something else. But there are other kinds of massacres besides “Islamic terrorist” killings. Let’s not mix things up. I call for reasonable gun control. Responsible gun control.
How about a look at Australia?
Do you know about their Port Arthur massacre in April 1996, when a young man killed 35 and wounded 23 others? The rampage, perpetrated with a semiautomatic rifle, was the worst mass shooting in Australia’s history. It took less than two weeks for the conservative-led national government to pass fundamental changes to gun laws in cooperation with their states, which regulate firearms.
The government all but prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles, stiffened licensing and ownership rules, and instituted a gun buyback program. That temporary effort removed some 650,000 assault weapons –1/6 the number out there– out of public circulation. Among other things, the law also made licensees demonstrate “genuine need” for a particular type of gun and take a firearm safety course. After another high-profile shooting in Melbourne in 2002, Australia’s handgun laws were tightened, too.
The result: declining gun-death rates, and no gun-related mass killings in Australia since 1996.
It rankles when people trot out the Second Amendment, as if it were applicable today. So let me help us all understand.
The main body of the Constitution is a grant of powers from the people to the federal government. The amendments to the Constitution, at least the first ten, are limitations on the exercise of those powers. The historical reasons for the adoption of those amendments seem clear: (1) the colonies had just conducted a long and bloody revolution against a central government and its professional army and mercenaries and, (2) the colonies were, at the time “mini-countries” each with its own sense of sovereignty. To convince the colonies to unite, there had to be assurances that the central government would recognize state sovereignty. It is within this context that the Founding Fathers’ intent should be measured. Because this situation has absolutely NO bearing on today.
Brett Arends in Marketwatch noted:
“The Second Amendment doesn’t just say Congress shall not infringe the right to “keep and bear arms.” It specifically says that right exists in order to maintain “a well-regulated militia.” What did the Founding Fathers mean by that? In the Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton explained at great length precisely what a “well-regulated militia” was, why the Founding Fathers thought we needed one, and why they wanted to protect it from being disarmed by the federal government.. The militia needed “uniformity in … organization and discipline,” wrote Hamilton, so that it could operate like a proper army “in camp and field,” and so that it could gain the “essential … degree of proficiency in military functions.” And although it was organized state by state, it needed to be under the explicit control of the national government. The “well-regulated militia” was under the command of the president. It was “the military arm” of the government.
The one big difference between this militia and a professional army? It shouldn’t be made up of full-time professional soldiers, said the Founding Fathers. Such soldiers could be used against the people as King George had used his mercenary Redcoats. Instead, the American republic should make up its military force from part-time volunteers drawn from regular citizens. Such men would be less likely to turn on the population. And the creation of this “well-regulated militia,” aka the National Guard, would help safeguard the freedom of the new republic because it would make the creation of a professional, mercenary army “unnecessary,” wrote Hamilton. “This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it,” Arends wrote.
Inexplicably, the U.S. Supreme court disagreed with the theory that the “right to bear arms” was related to the establishment of a “well regulated militia”. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment contained a separate, individual right to bear arms, and struck down a District of Columbia prohibition against having a usable handgun in one’s home. This is completely illogical to me. Completely.
And let me quote from a Rolling Stone article about tired, old anti-gun control arguments that you can read in its entirety HERE.
….remind everyone that the Second Amendment was written by slaveholders before we had electricity, much less the kind of weaponry that would-be murderers can buy today. But sure, if you think it’s that precious, we can compromise: If you love the Second Amendment that much, feel free to live in a powdered wig and shit in a chamberpot while trying to survive off what you can kill with an 18th century musket. In exchange, let those of us living in this century pass some laws so we can feel safe going to class, or the movies, or anywhere without worrying that some maladjusted man will try to get his revenge by raining death on random strangers.
So, old, tired arguments kept alive by a wealthy lobby, the NRA, that feels that any kind of sensible controls on who can buy guns and how is a threat to be quickly beaten down. Even if the proposals make sense and are no threat at all to responsible gun ownership. The well-funded NRA goes after the most benign of gun laws as if it were a major threat. Such as the one that would have prevented people on the no-fly list from buying guns. Seriously? This is bad? That’s what the NRA thinks and that’s the knee-jerk response of rabid gun proponents. I mean, do these people even know how to think?
The dysfunctions here in the “greatest nation in the world” are becoming all to evident.
I’m old and tired, too. But I am watching. And writing.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here. Rabid gun law opponents won’t tolerate any restrictions at all, no matter how logical.
But those of us who think differently need to find ways to act. I know that calling our elected officials and signing petitions isn’t much. I wish I could do more.
But it’s something.