“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.”
The Second Amendment. There it is. The very second addition to our nation’s Constitution guarantees, among other things, the right to have our own weapons. Yet just as with the First Amendment, everyone realizes that it take some interpretation to move from words on a page to daily practice. Very few people, for instance, would agree that average citizen of the United States should be able to possess any weapon that exists. Guns? Sure. But what about mustard gas? Nuclear weapons? Anthrax? On the other side, very few people would want to so overinterpret (or change) the Constitution so as to completely eliminate the right to bear arms. Considering that a weapon can be made out of anything (indeed, even our bare arms themselves) this seems rather an impossibility.
Post Newtown, we are left in the murky middle. There is, of course, the usual intransigence on either side. Fears from both camps pervade. One side almost seems to think that the NRA’s goal is to kill people. That guns are owned by nuts, and that anyone that wants an assault rifle must be insane. The other side? Sometimes living with the notion that the rest of world is bent on stealing their guns in order to establish a totalitarian dictatorship. So concerned about any limitation on arms they can fail to concede certain realities about the dangers of some firearms as compared to others.
The debate is locked.
A few (woefully incomplete) thoughts:
- We must be careful not to lay the blame for everything on the existence of guns. That’s just too easy. While I agree (and mourn the fact) that guns are involved in so many deaths (see here) and do make it much easier to kill, the gun lobby is correct that a gun does not change the human heart.
- When it come to gun rights, the issue is often painted in terms of guns being used for recreation, personal defense, or hunting. This is undoubtedly, a certain percentage of the pro-gun side. But my suspicions are that the most vocal members of the lobby are those who support the Second Amendment as a means of limiting the power of the government (i.e. preserving the right and means to rebel). This perspective is about maintaining checks and balances between the government and its people. This reality makes people on both sides a little nervous.
- Despite how “advanced” our civilization is, we ought to remember that human civilization has always been built upon power. Weapons help change that balance of power, meaning that a discussion of something like the Second Amendment is very much a legitimate conversation about where the lines of authority ought to be in our society.
- In addition–and you’ve probably seen the infographics on Facebook–it is my understanding that those who wish to limit firearms have established laws against certain weapons that “sound” dangerous more than actually “are” dangerous (I can’t vouch for all the information here, but take a look). Moreover, there is the concern that some if not many of those making laws limiting the availability of guns have little or no personal knowledge about them in the first place. This can be a problem…and common sense begs a more fully-orbed approach to necessary regulation.
Facebook has been informative these past few weeks: I know folks on both sides of the issue. People with whom I agree on some things and disagree on others. Not insane people. Not evil people. American citizens. It is worth keeping in mind.
The answer to all of this? The Second Amendment exists, and isn’t likely to go anywhere anytime soon. Beyond that, I don’t know. The solution isn’t to take away all of the weapons in the country (as if that were even possible)…but it isn’t weaponizing it either. Well, at least not for me.
I await your comments.