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Gun nuts on the vine

There was an interesting AP story about gun related deaths earlier this week. It mentioned the percentage of gun deaths due to suicide: around fifty percent (of those states that keep such statistics – which seems to imply not all of them do), and it’s implications. I thought it was interesting stuff, but I would have left it at that if I hadn’t seen the comments made by other Newsvine users. It was the standard gun-nut fare: how commie liberals would never “get” guns, or America’s God given right to have ’em.

Well this commie-liberal couldn’t keep his fingers still. You might have noticed another bit of writing that owes it’s existence to my emotional flare-up (from another story on Newsvine), a few posts down.

I tossed out a question for their consideration: did they think the framers intended for the constitution to stand, as is, for all time? I know, I had to ask THAT question. What can I say, I’m incorrigible. I went on to agree the constitution protected the right to own guns, but I questioned the need to guarantee that right forever. That’s some kind of gall, right? That’s when I was told I clearly didn’t understand the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the founding fathers, the joys of gun ownership, the nature of freedom, and it’s utter dependence on an armed citizenry.

All of this enlightenment didn’t come to me right away, which is too bad. Life kept me away from Newsvine for several days. By the time I returned, the last comment was a couple days old. I thought about posting another comment. I even typed one up. But would anyone care at this point but me?

I hate to think my poor fingers’ efforts were in vain… so, I’m posting it here. (This is your cue to stop reading.)

First off, let me apologize for my prior comment. I hastily clicked submit as my daughter’s Tae Kwon Do class was finishing up, before I did any proof-reading. Some people can write inspired prose in one pass, but I’m not one of them. I was horrified when I re-read my comment. Ugh, it’s barely readable.

Second, I’d like to respectfully disagree… not just with wether or not I’ve grasped “the point,” but with almost everything you’ve said.

I’m hesitant to speak up at all, because I know this is not an argument I’m going to win – or come close. I’m not well read, beyond the standard stuff from civics and keeping up with the news, so you won’t find any good quotes or statistics here to back me up. Although, I do have one quote I’m fond of: “A witty saying proves nothing.” That Voltaire… what a nut.

I’m also hesitant because my position is derived, in small part, by something that neither one of us can prove: what the framers would think of the world today. I think I’m fairly safe saying this isn’t the 18th century. I think I’m pretty safe saying the social and political landscape today would seem completely alien to any of the founders. The flow of information today might seem utopian by their standards. No, I’m not saying we live in a utopia, or anything particularly close. America is not the novel experiment it was at the time. Yes, there are swaths of the world where fear and oppression reign; but there are also significant parts that remain pretty stable (and mostly free). At a minimum, there’s most of North America, Europe, and pockets here and there throughout the rest (Japan, Australia, etc). I’m sure this will remain a point of contention no matter what I say, but I don’t think the relative peace of western civilization owes it’s continuing existence to an armed citizenry. You may find my feelings naive, but I find the alternative extremely (and unreasonably) cynical. No offense.

Why does the historical context of our founding documents matter? Ultimately, I’m not sure it does… not in a legal sense. In my first comment, I attempted to acknowledge the recent ruling by the Supreme Court was well founded. There’s no question the founders intended to protect the rights of an armed citizenry. Why wouldn’t they? It was the very thing their independence – and their freedom – depended on. America would have remained a British colony without armed citizens, so of course they saw guns as necessary. The idea of individual and equal rights was as foreign to the world then as electric lights.

Contrast that with today. Yes, there are examples aplenty of oppression – even in our own country’s history (post-independence). But are guns really the backbone of our freedom – still? Do you seriously believe the only thing between us and someone putting the rest of the Constitution through a shredder is the right to own a hand gun? I don’t accept that.

If you look at the places in the world that aren’t “free,” has the answer been more guns? How’s that working out in parts of Africa? In the middle east? When we’ve had crises involving liberty stripped or denied in our own country (post independence), how often has the solution been more guns? How’d that work out for the Confederacy? All right, maybe that isn’t the best example. The Civil War was largley won due to superior numbers. But the south did pursue armed rebellion as a means protect their “right” (to keep others from getting them), but were they better off for it? Well some of them ultimately were, but it wasn’t exactly what the Confederacy had in mind. What constructive role did guns play in women’s suffrage? In the civil rights movement of the 60s? I’m no historian, but I think you can argue the answer was: none.

Further, I think the founder’s language regarding gun rights does real harm, in a modern context. Who but the extreme fringe of society embraces the idea of armed rebellion to solve domestic issues? Would the founders have advocated taking up arms to challenge the Supreme Court decision that ended the 2000 election? Would they have advocated armed rebellion in any of the domestic disputes of the last hundred years? If the only thing that keeps our government in line is the threat of armed reprisal, we’ve got MUCH bigger problems than the second amendment.

I don’t fear guns. We have them in our house and we always have (it comes with a career in law enforcement). We had a cabinet full of guns growing up, prominently displayed in the front hall. I’ve done my share of shooting, and I even have fun doing it. My beliefs don’t stem from fear of the unknown.

Again, I acknowledge guns are protected by the constitution and legal precedent. I get that the founders owed their freedom to lots of guns. I don’t think they deserve special protection anymore. I’m not saying we have to ban them, I’m saying they shouldn’t be any different from any other potentially dangerous piece of property. The automobile plays a part in a whole lot of death too, but we try to mitigate the risks by training and licensing operators. We restrict where they can be driven. We treat driving as a privilege, not a right; even though one could argue driving has more to do with freedom and the pursuit of happiness in this country that the right to pack heat (with the current state of public transportation, but that’s a whole ‘nuther post).

Take heart… it isn’t changing any time soon, as you’re probably well aware. But I can live with that. We’ve survived, even thrived at times with guns in our midst, and we’ll continue to do so. What I don’t quite understand is how such a large number of people could be so paranoid as to believe we couldn’t be just as well off without special, constitutional protection for guns. Maybe our founders did equate guns with speech, assembly and religion… but that was then. We don’t live there anymore.

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  1. I too grew up with guns, and in fact I love them, or at least some of them. Yet I favor an amendment restricting ownership, because what we have now just isn’t working. I believe the people who are opposed to gun legislation also grew up with guns, also love them, or at least some of them, but value their own personal desires over the needs of their community.

    I’ve given up arguing the issue, even the militia clause. Talking to people who think “guns don’t kill people” is like talking to Iraq War supporters still looking for WMD. Guns are here to stay. Probably I ought to get one to protect myself from everyone else who has one.

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