Politics Editor Paul Blest thinks the current conversation about guns is disingenuous. It’s time to change that.
Starting the Conversation will be a new periodic section at the Good Men Project aimed at starting a debate between all members of the political spectrum. Contributor Michael Amity and Politics editor Paul Blest will be the first to take part in a debate about the 2nd Amendment and how much power law enforcement actually has or should have. You can read Michael’s piece here.
Law enforcement is out of control. At all levels. From the FBI, which just saw an agent kill a suspect post-confession, to the SWAT team that was ordered to raid a house because of an “illegal poker game”, to a county sheriff who can’t seem to grasp the concept that his is a mostly ceremonial position with no arrest power, police in this country enjoy an incredibly strong tolerance from citizens, despite carrying out actions on home soil that can be as reprehensible as those committed by federal intelligence agencies.
First thing’s first: I’d venture to say that most police officers are not barging into random houses or slaughtering people behind closed doors, and like everything else, we only see the terrifying things that make us quiver every time we hear that siren behind our car. But because we don’t expect any better from our police officers, and seem to give them the benefit of the doubt even when they commit murder, nothing has really changed over the past several decades. In other countries, cops are normal citizens who protect and serve; in America, it’s a fear-driven campaign to whip people into shape, one that obviously hasn’t worked given our incredibly high incarceration rates.
Why does this matter? Because I don’t think law enforcement means “above the law”.
In Oklahoma, as my counterpart in this debate showed, a state senator felt threatened by forty lobbying sheriffs who were taking advantage of their open carry laws in the state capitol building. While I agree with Will that it’s statistically very unlikely that one of the officers would decide to go on a murdering rampage whilst in the state house, have we forgotten the conservative accusations that the New Black Panther Party was intimidating voters in Philadelphia by carrying guns? Or the fact that the idea of gun control itself was originally a conservative concept, to curtail the 2nd Amendment rights of Black Panthers in California who felt that weapons were the only way to fight back against a corrupt, racist police force?
The fact is that no one wants to feel threatened for their vote. Let’s say you find the time to vote, between all of your other responsibilities (kids, work, health, How I Met Your Mother) and someone who presumably disagrees with you is holding a gun (or a knife, or your machine capable of killing things of choice) while you go into the voting booth. You probably aren’t feeling very good about your vote, especially if you aren’t equally armed. Now, imagine you’re someone whose vote is being aired out to the world. You’re a state senator who’s voting to reduce the pensions of retired officers in order to balance the budget or find money to get textbooks to an elementary school in Omaha. Now you’ve got forty pissed off veteran officers with guns who think you just stole money from them.
I’m not afraid to admit that I’d be scared, even with that statistical unlikelihood that the sheriffs would use their weapon to exact revenge on me.
I disagree with Will that this is about the Constitution. The Constitution says nothing about carrying a gun into a state government building, and personally, I believe that the 2nd Amendment, seeing as how the Founders (well-educated elites) were less than a decade removed from the failed Articles of Confederation, and not too optimistic about the ability of common people to pick or run a functioning government, is there to give the citizenry the power to protect the government, not provide protection against it. But that’s the beauty of it, in an April Fools, I-get-the-point, you-can-stop-now kind of way: the Founding Fathers left the success of the Constitution up to our ability to debate it and twist it to fit contemporary political agendas. Hell, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has made a career out of attaching his own goofy logic to the Founding Fathers.
Right now, we aren’t having a real conversation about guns, and it’s indicative of our larger dysfunctional political spectrum as a whole. It’s an ideological pissing contest where every small concession is a traitorous move against the rights of gun owners or victims of gun crimes. Those who own guns aren’t criminals; those who want to see archaic laws reformed aren’t obsessed with trampling all over the Constitution. Gun control advocates need to understand that the ability to legally own and safely use guns is not only a right, but something that’s, for better or for worse, ingrained in the fabric of the country; at the same time, gun rights activists must realize that the Constitution is not a flawless document or a guarantee of perfect political process; if that were the case, then slavery would still be legal, Prohibition would have never existed, and instead of writing symbolic Treasury checks during the government shutdown, elected officials would have been stuck without pay just like the rest of the federal employees their actions affected.
And until we start having more of those real, productive conversations, we should resign ourselves to more mass shootings, more outrage from both sides, more insane conspiracy theories, and complete and total inaction.
Like The Good Men Project on Facebook!
Photo – Flickr/nostri-imago