In an age of nuclear weapons and mass shootings, does it still make sense to uphold an American’s constitutional right to bear arms?
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
I have often said that conservatives are only against regulating two things; business and guns. If some had their way we’d be watching a continuous loop of Little House on the Prairie on TV and reading the Bible in public schools. The Family Research Council would be a Federal agency replacing the Departments of Education, Energy and Environmental Protection. The debate raging now once again pits the constitutional right to bear arms against the rights of all people to live life without fear of losing a loved one to random gun violence.
I am no fan of the Second Amendment but I am a huge fan of the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment in particular and tampering too much with one right leads to an open door for another. I don’t want anyone to tell me what I can watch, read or listen to. I don’t want anyone to tell me how to think or act. If the price for that is letting someone own guns, then so be it. Many argue that the founding fathers never envisioned automatic weapons and cop killer bullets which is true but they also never envisioned internet porn or Howard Stern. The framers were all wealthy landowners and I’m pretty sure they never thought much about a middle class or an America without legal slavery. Still I firmly believe there should be limits to gun ownership that the broad language of the Second Amendment fails to cover. No civilian needs military style semi automatic weapons. No civilian needs cop killer bullets or extended magazines. No civilian needs body armor. According to the National Institute of Justice, in 2006, 68% of all homicides were committed with firearms. There were 11,346 murders committed with guns in 2005 while over 447,000 people were victims of violent crimes using firearms. The overall violent crime rate has been increasing slightly every year since its low in 1993.
The NRA will fight to the last man to defend a citizen’s right to own as many AR-15’s as they wish as well as extended clips and cop killer bullets, which in my world is insane. I can, though, see where they come from. What they are really defending against is the slippery slope of compromise. If they do nothing and allow a ban on assault weapons and extended clips to pass, what’s to stop the government from going after all guns and ammunition? The NRA often uses the family friendly image of fathers and sons out in the field pursuing their time honored tradition of hunting, but there are scores of gun owners who honestly believe that they need guns to protect themselves from the government. Wayne LaPierre’s press conference following the Newtown shootings was nothing short of bizarre. Put armed guards in schools and that will solve the problem What about the malls, movie theaters and grocery stores? The gun show loophole was never mentioned but violent video games and TV were. LaPierre cited the movie, Natural Born Killers, a film that is two decades old, as an example of glorified Hollywood violence. In fact a recent study published by Kamy Akhaven of the California based research group ProCon.org reports that 97% of 12 to 17 year old kids play video games, and the overall juvenile crime rate has declined steadily since 1995. No matter what, no discussion of gun control in any form will be tolerated by the gun rights group. Guns are not the problem, according to the NRA: liberal Hollywood is.
This is one of the great problems on the right, no compromise ever, and that is driving our country further and further into crisis. Taxes will never be raised and anyone who wants a gun should get it. The gun show loophole renders any other kind of legislation moot and needs to be closed. Even then, a national registry needs to be implemented to screen out criminals and those with dangerous mental problems. Most of the mass shootings that have occurred over the past several years were perpetrated using legally acquired weapons but the shooters all had something else in common: they all had a history of mental health issues. The Virginia Tech shooter had been declared a danger to himself by his psychiatrist but since he was not considered a danger to others his name never entered the Virginia database. Virginia has been for many years one of the easiest states in which to obtain firearms. A friend of mine once purchased a handgun with his fishing license at a rural gun store. In a recent Washington Post article by David Brown it was reported that those with severe mental health issues such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are ten times more likely to have violent tendencies but still the overall rate is very low. The NRA supports more mental health legislation while, ironically, budget cuts eliminate services every day. The NRA, however, opposes a registry and closing loopholes; they instead want to regulate video games and TV.
I fully support a citizen’s right to own guns and use them responsibly, but what about my right to live in a world where I don’t dread my children going to school or to the movies? Should the price of someone else’s freedom infringe on a person’s right to live without fear of going to the mall? I have to fear some person who feels so marginalized that the only way he can prove his own worth is to take as many innocent people as he can when he checks out of life?
I have lost several friends to gun violence over the years and they all had one thing in common: they came from backgrounds steeped in gun culture. There were always guns in their homes and I remember clearly a friend in junior high saying he pitied the burglar who tried to break into their house. One of my childhood friends had moved back in with his elderly parents and a few years ago his father shot him and his mother to death before turning the gun on himself. No note was ever found and all the neighbors portrayed them as a nice, quiet family. A nice quiet family who I remember had a gun cabinet in the living room. Another guy I was friends with was sent to prison for life after blowing his roommate away with a shotgun after they got into a drunken argument. The weapons used were all legally obtained but that didn’t prevent them from being used in violent criminal acts. The proximity of guns didn’t guarantee the murders but there’s no doubt that their availability abetted the crimes.
To the point, I don’t believe anyone should be deprived of constitutional rights but I do strongly believe that there needs to be some sort of legislation to protect the rest of society. No one needs an assault weapon to hunt and it’s pretty much impossible to bring down a deer with a 9mm pistol. If you absolutely have to own that AK-47 then keep it locked up at your gun club and away from the hands of a suicidal psychopath. Even in the military, a soldier who is not in combat has his weapon locked away. The military does this to ensure the weapons will not fall into the wrong hands and also to keep track of the weapons at all times. If one goes missing there will almost always be a trail to follow until the weapon turns up. This is nothing more than common sense of which we seem to be lacking more and more every year. We will never be able to stop every single person who is bent on destruction but we can work to limit the damage. Close the loopholes, make sure no one ever buys a gun without a complete background check, publish a national database of people with criminal backgrounds or dangerous mental health issues who have been judged to be a danger to themselves or others.
In the end, keep your guns and I’ll keep Catcher in the Rye on school bookshelves. Go hunting, shoot skeet and take target practice. I’ll watch my HBO and listen to alternative music and read prurient literature. We can co-exist in a world where no one has to fear leaving their house. We all keep our constitutional rights intact and hopefully live in a somewhat safer world.
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