2013

6 February 2013: Guns simply not the answer

Guns simply not the answer

While there might be debate as to the order of the Bill of Rights—Did James Madison prioritize them?— for our purpose it is striking to note the Second Amendment, which is about the need for a strong militia bearing arms, comes long before the Eighth Amendment that declares cruel and unusual punishment taboo.

One supposes those who believe in unlimited weapon and ammunition ownership and usage would argue the right to bear arms is not stated in the perhaps Ninth Amendment is crucial, but if so, they start down the slippery slope about rights’ priorities and would have to concede the First Amendment is not only first, it is therefore foremost.

An armed society without rights of being free from a state-sponsored religion and of speech, press, assembly, and petition is nothing more than a Mad Max coterie of human beings, survivalists with no purpose and meaning other than to survive.

The essential point is that without the First Amendment, the Second is pointless for an advanced society.

Nevertheless, certain citizens desire to be armed, presumably for two reasons: personal protection and from possible government imposition.

With regard to the first, ample studies demonstrate that there is no correlation between one being armed and being safe from violence.  In fact, the opposite is true: When one carries or is in proximity to a gun, his/her chances of being wounded or killed by it or another exponentially rises.  As Rep. Claire Levy succinctly expresses it, guns only “create the illusion of safety.”

Second, arguments from proponents are largely based on hypothetical rationalizations, which rarely are reality-based.

Finally, even gun ownership advocates should agree the intent of the Second Amendment has no meaning in that context, for it does make clear the right to bear arms is necessary for “the security of a free State.”  So let’s look at that concept in 21st century America.

First, is the threat to a free state simply from a foreign invasion or is the wording in context of what many assume an onerous, heavy-handed government?

We need to keep in mind the government of pre-revolutionary America was not duly elected, was not “of the people, by the people, and for the people” as Abraham Lincoln eloquently phrased it.  President Obama and congress were all duly elected.  They did not seize power.

Second, with regard to protection from unnecessary, even insidious governmental intrusion, the Fourth Amendment that reads in part “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,” provides for that, although the so-called very unpatriotic PATRIOT Act arguably allows for Big Brother government.

For the purpose of our debate though, the question before us: Which amendment, the First or the Second, serves as the greater protector from a totalitarian state?  Or another way to phrase it: Is it my ability to write or say anything I want even with certain restrictions or a gunny’s unrestricted right to own, carry, and use a weapon without limitation?

Without guns, Gandhi brought the British Empire to its knees and forced it to abandon India.  The Soviet Empire collapsed not from any type of Tom Clancy military invasion from NATO or threat of an American nuclear barrage but from within.  The Iron Curtain could not prevent ideas of freedom from flowing from the West.

America is like other advanced nations: Its freedom and the personal liberties of its citizens arise from and are sustained by a well-informed and active citizenry not from the fact x-amount of them carry weapons.

One’s ability to think critically and express a well-reasoned argument, willingness to challenge his/her representatives and law enforcers on issues and when out of line, and dedication to vote are the foundation of a free society, and a public education system serves as the foundation of that foundation.

So rather than amass weapons with enough firepower to blow one’s neighbors to kingdom come, whatever that might be, a more sound strategy includes getting a good education and being a life-long learner, reading thoughtful pieces and listening to cool-headed commentators that challenge one’s thinking not confirm it, thinking critically and not reacting emotionally about issues, and participating in the political process by not only voting but also by becoming involved in the political process in all that encompasses.

In 1755 Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

As far as I know, Franklin never used a gun to fight or for self-defense.  Nor did Thomas Jefferson or James Madison.  But then, their option for a hand-held weapon was a single-shot musket, which seems to be the point when one really thinks about it.

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