Sunday, August 31, 2014

Guns

Here’s a rule.  If there is a politician or a TV or radio political commentator – or worse yet more than one – with whom you are in agreement 100% of the time, what that proves is you are not an independent thinker.

Obvious, right?  Good.  Because I am sure that the following will rub many Americans the wrong way, Americans I most want to reach.  

But just because we may disagree on one issue does not make everything I have to say unworthy of your time and consideration, right?

OK.

Here is the text of the Second Amendment: “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.”

Many pro-gun advocates like to ignore the first thirteen words, leaving them with “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”  But that is not what the Second Amendment guarantees.

So, here are some idle thoughts on the subject.

If we take seriously the well-regulated militia clause, the Second Amendment does not give you the right to use arms to defend yourself against a thief who breaks into your home.  I may (and do) agree with you that you have the right to shoot to kill such an unwelcome “guest” but the Second Amendment does not seem to give you that right.

If we take seriously the well-regulated militia clause, the Second Amendment does not give you the right to bear arms in school, public or private, as teacher or student.  And any such state is a state where I don’t want my children attending their schools.

If we take seriously the well-regulated militia clause, the Second Amendment does not give you the right to bear arms in a public or private establishment.  I might think that the owner of a private establishment should have the right to ban guns in his own place (and he does have that right).  And I would want to see a sign outside declaring that ban, as that is an establishment that I would feel safe patronizing.

If we take seriously the well-regulated militia clause, the Second Amendment does not give you the right to own hand-guns (“Saturday night specials”), automatic weapons or WMD’s.  Why not?  Because the authors of the Second Amendment did not know of such things.  All the “Arms” they could have intended you to keep or bear were single-shot rifles.  Anything more “advanced” than that might have occasioned a second thought.

There are some who believe that the best solution is for everyone to bear arms at all times, so no one would dare to bully anyone else.  This would be analogous to arguing for a nuclear world where every country had nuclear weapons, believing that no one would dare bully anyone else.  There are folks who think this way, honest.  I am not one of them.  While I surely do not advocate unilateral American nuclear disarmament, it seems to me that the fewer nukes in the world, the better.  Less chance of an “accident.”

Would you sell a gun to a man who had just discovered that his wife had cheated on him?  Would you sell a gun to a man who was just fired from his job?  Would you sell a gun to a man who was under the influence?  Would you sell a gun to a man who needs to come to you to buy one?  Can’t he buy one at Wal-Mart, why won’t they sell him one?  Maybe gun shows are the last place on Earth we want people buying guns.

How many children have found their dad’s gun, unlocked, and accidentally shot themselves or a best friend?  This is not a reason to ban gun ownership; it’s a reason for gun owners to be more careful.  Frankly, I would hope that the law would charge the owner of that gun (a parent?) with 3rd degree murder with a minimum ten-year prison sentence.

I am not anti-gun, I am anti-foolishness.  Yeah, this means I am for gun regulation, sensible gun regulation, not punitive gun regulation.  And perhaps all that means is “enforce the gun laws already on the books.”  I even support the formation of local gun militias that believe they need to protect themselves from a government grown too powerful.  This may not be a Constitutional right but it is something I support nonetheless.

In my book, common sense trumps the Constitution; common sense trumps an abridged reading of the Second Amendment too.

Dear reader, I include this essay knowing full well that many of the folks who I want to read my book are gun owners and Second Amendment advocates.  And I recognize that the Supreme Court is on your side in this discussion.  But I’d like you to know that, Constitution aside, it makes non-gun owners like myself just a bit uneasy knowing that my child may attend a public school where someone may legally carry a gun, that it makes us uneasy to visit a national park where visitors may legally bring firearms, that it makes us uneasy knowing that no matter where we go someone, anyone, may be carrying a loaded weapon which could injure or kill us – accidentally.

The law is on your side, the Constitution and the Supreme Court are on your side (by a slim 5-4 margin).  It may be legal and it may be Constitutional, but maybe it is not always such a good idea.  And we ask you to at least see our side as a reasonable argument, not an attempt to take your guns away from you.

And, before I leave the subject, let me say that if I were a country mouse rather than a city mouse, I would own guns (even if the law or the Supreme Court forbid it).  Because in rural areas of our vast country, the “local” police cannot come to my aid quickly enough to be of much help; I am really on my own if I live in the country.  Maybe the true dividing line on this divisive issue is: where do you live, in the city or the country?  In the city, gun ownership may be looking for trouble; in the country, gun ownership may be the difference between life and death.

We all need to stop hating those who believe different from us.  We are not really all that different.  If only we could remember to put ourselves in the other guy’s shoes.  And, once again, if we can respect those who believe differently from us, surely we can come together to fight a battle where we have the same goals.

Addendum: Sunday, 01/10/2015
C-SPAN just re-played President Obama's emotional appeal for tougher gun control.  So, lest I be misunderstood, lest I be less than 100% clear where I stand, here is what I think in a nutshell.

For all I know, the laws that are already on the books are adequate and the entire problem is enforcement.  OK, then enforce those laws!

As I indicated in my country-mouse city-mouse argument, I do NOT believe that this is a federal one-size-fits-all problem.  My attitude toward personal gun ownership depends to a large degree on where I live and work.  Let the states act according to their own needs.  Personally, I believe that Texas with its absolutist attitude toward open-carry and concealed-carry will experience a brain drain over the next decade.

Last, I believe that those who support an absolutist version of "keep and bear arms" a) do not understand the Second amendment or the circumstances that gave birth to it, b) do not much care about common sense, and c) are not capable of honest and logical "thought."

That's it, folks.