Once again we’ve been thrown into the animus over firearms by yet another mass shooting, this time at a Florida high school. Once again there are demands for better gun control and the expected labeling of that demand confiscation by the NRA and its constituents. Unlike Sandy Hook, however, where young children were murdered, the high schoolers are letting their feelings be known in no uncertain terms. That they are intimately familiar with those murdered at an impressionable age is also why they are speaking out in a way that the victims of other mass shootings did not.
And they appear determined not to go away.
This is causing consternation in the usual suspects, as well as the usual nonsense about our liberties; yeah, I’m singling out you Wayne-but then your hysteria isn’t aimed at me. It is however aimed at sowing emotional outrage in an effort to prevent any actual conversations about how we can stop this epidemic of gun violence. And it is an epidemic and it does point an accusing finger at our sclerotic political culture.
At the center of this charged political debate is where individual rights clash with the safety of the community. As one commentator, Bret Stephens, has noted “…the larger purposes of the Constitution as they are spelled out in the preamble: to “insure domestic tranquillity”; to “promote the general welfare”; and to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” To most of us this isn’t promoted by the idea that to achieve that we should all be armed to the teeth with military style firearms. The answers, or solutions if you prefer, are straight forward: you limit or ban certain firearms.
Such a comment naturally, from a certain point of view, portends the end of our personal liberties and well as the end of the republic as we know it. That’s nonsense. But it is the nonsense the NRA disseminates. This makes any action on gun violence problematic because we’ve been conditioned to understand that the NRA is the great behemoth that controls all congressional thought on firearms. This is probably true for the GOP given the influence the NRA wields in primary voting within the Republican Party, but at some point that’s got to give because the NRA’s arguments are built on a house of cards and they know it.
The biggest contrivance is the idea that the 2nd 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”- is sacrosanct on firearm possession. It is not. Until recently it was considered an archaic amendment akin to the 3rd, quartering soldiers in private homes, primarily because militias are no longer the means by which the US defends itself and the military provides the necessary weaponry which negates the need to not infringe on the right of the people to bear arms. This is different from common law, derived from the English, which allows for self defense and has been recognized by US courts since the inception of the republic. It is self defense and the protection of property that explains the allowance of personal firearms down through American history.
Now some will mention that he Supreme Court has ruled that the 2nd amendment allows individuals to possess a firearm. That’s true. It is also an interpretation of the amendment and as history has shown is thereby susceptible to change or modification by future courts, so buyer beware. Note that the amendment does not say you as an American citizen have an inalienable individual right to own any and all firearms you want. Add to that the available correspondence and opinions voiced by those who fashioned the amendment as to the reason it was proposed in the first place and the rationales espoused by the NRA begins to thin.
There is nothing in the constitution that says you have a right to possess an AR-15, the military style semi-automatic that has become the weapon of choice in many of the recent mass shooting. It is a matter of legislation. Even if you buy into the belief that the 2nd amendment gives you the right to keep and bear arms, it does not mention quantity or quality, caliber or capable firing rate. The Congress could mandate nothing more than muskets. The would in no way prevent the US from protecting itself as the reason stated above would continue to be in effect; nor would it violate the present reading of the amendment.
The biggest roadblock in coming to grips with our gun death epidemic is to get beyond the irrational vitriol and the emotional baggage that has weighed down any discussion of how we can begin to stop killing each other, and ourselves, in such alarming numbers. It is true that the vast majority of gun deaths come from handguns rather than AR-15’s, but they are the very real symbol of how out of control this epidemic has become.
The other bromide is that banning AR-15s and assault rifles will lead to complete confiscation and we need our guns to defend ourselves against the great state oppressors. Again nonsense. Nothing happens in this country without majority support, and there is no majority for confiscation. There is, however, for sensible gun restrictions, thorough background checks, and limitations placed on those with mental health issues and violent tendencies; think domestic violence.
I will offer a quick word for all the weekend warriors and self proclaimed militias out there; if you honestly think that running around the dessert or forests will somehow make you able to resist the firepower of a US military force with many years of combat reinforced experience in the dessert and elsewhere, able to bring to bear everything from fully automatic firearms to air strikes, I wish you luck. You might think you’re fighting an evil control state, but for now that’s treason and you would have very little support from the rest of us. Secondly, stockpiling only leads to confrontations with our increasingly militarized police and as recent events have shown they will kill you first and ask questions later.
So where does that leave us? Where it usually does, political action. We need to clean up how state districts are drawn so they are more equitable to state populations and then you vote out those who won’t act and vote in those that will.
Otherwise nothing will change.
©2018 David William Pearce