Posts Tagged ‘gun control’

SACROSANCT

December 21, 2012

Sacrosanct

Christmas cards arrived one after the other bearing pictures of children. With each card, I teared up at the images of those precious children in my life – grand nieces and nephews, and the children of friends. I can’t imagine anything short of a long and complete life for any of them.

It’s been weeks since Newtown, CT became our sister city and the entire world adopted Sandy Hook Elementary’s children. Children – our most sacrosanct priority. We hold them dearly. We protect them with nurturing and laws, starting with our Constitution. It contains 27 Amendments that are sacrosanct, except not all of them are. Some are open to reason for the good of us all.

Take the First Amendment. It allows us to make whatever movie we want, write any song lyric, make and sell and play virtually any conceivable video game, or view pornography if we choose. But wait, we do have restrictions even on Amendment One: We can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater, or threaten the life of a public servant, or give or receive child pornography. And all for good reason.

So what makes the 2nd Amendment (that one broad-stroke sentence) totally, unequivocally sacrosanct to some? Why is there no room for reasonable restrictions within this law when there is room within others? There is nothing in that lone sentence to suggest that limiting the lethality and speed of a weapon, or requiring some information about its seller and owner, will infringe upon the right guaranteed therein.

Having friends on both sides of the “gun control” debate, I hear intelligent reasonable arguments from both sides. A friend in suburban Connecticut posted his priority of life over unrestricted gun ownership. A former high school classmate commented on gun ownership, responsibility, and the types of environments where citizens carry guns, as he does in rural Tennessee. Yet, these two intelligent, reasonable people from entirely contrasting environments are able to discuss the issue civilly and believe we can get to what is reasonable. Why we struggle to reach a consensus when it comes to our children’s safety, and our rights, is uncivil to them and to me. No guns, period; or, more bigger, badder guns are not reasonable answers. Arming the entire USA may make a good western movie but not a safer culture. Stripping away our right to bear arms may make us vulnerable. Somewhere in between is the answer to this one factor in gun violence, of which there are many.

What about armed guards? At Columbine, two experienced former police officers described the scene: “There was an unknown inside a school. We didn’t know who the ‘bad guy’ was but soon realized the sophistication of their weapons. These were big bombs. Big guns. We didn’t have a clue who ‘they’ were.” The guards wisely avoided a shootout. And what about firepower? Jesse Clear, who supplies ballistic rubber media to firing ranges (which safely encapsulate the fired projectile and its byproducts — lead dust, ricochet shrapnel, back-splatter), wrote on Fredericksburg Patch, “Neither style weapon — nor its accoutrements (30-50-round magazines, 100-round drums, unjacketed or hollow-point bullets, stockpiled ammunition) have any business in the hands of civilians. If one wants to outfit themselves with such an arsenal, I suggest they join a WELL-REGULATED Militia — as detailed in the 2nd Amendment — Marine Corps, Army infantry, Seals, Delta Force, Virginia National Guard, or any big-city police SWAT team.”

Other answers do exist, some simple, some complex. As for schools, sophisticated entry systems that protect buildings from invasion (visit schoolsafetysystems.com) are economically feasible. We just need a polled consensus to mandate our elected officials, not wait for them to move off square one. We need to make public safety sacrosanct. After all, when you tuck your child into bed, read her a story, or lead him in prayer, the only thing that truly matters is their peace. Everything else is open to reason.

As the Preamble to our Constitution says, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Wise words from wise and reasonable men in 1787. Here’s to a wise and reasonable 2013.

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Guns don’t kill people. Gun laws protect people. Where is the conflict?

July 22, 2012

My brother shared a graphic image today on facebook.  It said, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”  Then it said how many people own guns and how many of them did not kill anybody (yesterday in Aurora, CO.).

Why is the gun control debate postured as a mutually exclusive zero sum game? Why can’t we support the Second Amendment but limit the caliber and type of guns allowed for purchase?  Why can’t we do a better check on gun buyers and limit the number of purchases to a reasonable amount not indicative of secondary market sales to criminals?

I do not own a gun but reserve my right to own one if I choose.  I do not think I should be allowed to buy a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a nuclear bomb, or a surface to air missile.  Or, even an assault rifle.  Deer are not that challenging.

Someone like my brother might say if a person with a permit to carry had been in that theater, the killer would have been gunned down before doing all of that harm.

I agree.  If my friend Jim B had been there, that gunman would have been down after emptying his first 20 rounds.  Of course, if there had been a ban on assault weapons, he would have been able to get off fewer than six rounds before Jim B nailed him.  With a six-round, non-automatic chamber, the people in that theater would have had a better chance of escape.  The body count would have been much lower.

It is hard to buy a house or get a loan.  It is easy to buy a gun.  It should not be possible to buy an assault weapon.  The Second Amendment can have sensible limits for public safety without trampling my brother’s rights.  Or mine.

So why is it an all or nothing proposition to people like my brother?  Why the “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile” mentality?

I don’t know.  We are from the same genes but are wired much differently.  Our life experiences are not similar at all, after age 17 (we are both in our 60s now). We see things through different lenses.  Not everything, mind you, but many things.

Take the Second Amendment.  We both support it.  People kill people.  We both agree.  The difference is that I believe we should limit the power and speed of the guns allowed.  Our rights will remain intact.  And I believe that people with assault weapons can kill more people faster than people with simpler hand guns can.  Our society will be safer if we make it harder to kill more people faster.  Who has a problem with that?

It is not all or nothing, brother.  It is rights versus responsibility.  We have the right to bear arms.  We have a responsibility to protect each other from demented individuals.  These two concepts do not compete with each other.

It all makes me wonder how genetics work, how experience matters, how our minds work.  One of us likes our gun laws as they are.  One of us wants to change them.  In Aurora, CO, one outcast made the latter point gruesomely clear.

My brother is a conservative.  I am a liberal.  I don’t claim to know everything that he has seen or done in life, but I do know how my own experiences have shaped my thinking and my politics.  Relevant to the Second Amendment issue, my thinking has been shaped by the crime scenes I have stood at; by the court hearings I have testified at; by the murder of a colleague of mine by another colleague of mine; by my firing of a 44 magnum at a shooting range; by my years working in the criminal justice system; and by my friendships with warriors from every branch of our military and from law enforcement who have told me stories.  I don’t take violence, or its causes, or its mitigating factors, lightly.

Which is why my faith in our Congress is at an all-time low.  Despite the past 60 or so public shootings that have made the news, despite even the shooting of one of their own members of Congress (Gabby Giffords), our cowardly Congress still will not pass stricter gun laws.

Why?  They, too, are wired differently than me.  They fear the NRA (despite its rank and file membership’s favorable view on banning assault weapons), and they answer to money because they like their privileged jobs we pay for and the big money they receive from the lobbies to campaign to keep their jobs.  They are wired weirdly and they are irresponsible.  They have the right to be!  Just as the shooter in Aurora had the right to buy an assault weapon.

Which introduces to we, the responsible people, a difficult challenge:  do we have a better chance of convincing our lawmakers to tighten the gun laws, or a better likelihood of voting the odd-wired, irresponsible ones out and replacing them with reasonable people?

Either way, we have our work cut out for us.  There’s a lot of resistance, even within my own gene pool.