UPDATE (12- 14-12):
In light of the mass shooting today at a Connecticut elementary school, I have serious misgivings about my heretofore passive support of the Second Amendment and the right of virtually everyone to keep and bear arms.
At last word now (1501 hrs, PDT), the death toll at the school was 20 children and six adults.
UPDATE: Now at 18:19 PDT, I read that another person, possibly the shooter’s mother, was killed off site — this is only my blog and my take on things, not the up-to-the-minute news source, so suffice to say a horrible shooting involving school children has taken place and it seems we really need to think about the whys of it all and what we as a society can do.
I want to note here that I did read a letter to the editor in Connecticut newspaper online site that suggested media coverage ought to be limited to the facts and not sensationalism. I’m not sure what that would mean or how that would make anyone safer. Maybe the letter writer meant that nut cases think of all the publicity they will generate. I think they don’t think much of anything coherent. But I do agree that coverage should basically stick to the facts, and yet the horrible scenes and ghastly looks on the faces of frantic or mournful parents is a fact. But the important thing is how do we protect ourselves and our children.
No matter what your position on gun control and the Second Amendment, how can anyone in good conscience just sit passively by and say such inane things as “guns don’t kill people, people do”? Crazy people with guns kill people and we need to figure out some way to protect ourselves and our children from them. I do not know what the answer is. I realize simply banning guns does not work. It is illegal to carry firearms in Mexico, says so right at the border, and yet thousands die there in an ongoing drug war.
I’ll have more to write on this later. Right now I just feel upset.
…And now later in the day, I read this opinion piece in the New York Times online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/14/opinion/why-we-let-the-school-shootings-continue.html?src=rechp
What follows is my previous blog post of 12-12-12 on the subject — and as I said, I am having second thoughts on it all.
Whenever there is a gun tragedy, such as the Portland mall shooting, the latest in the national news, at least at this writing, there are usually calls for stricter gun control along with spirited defenses of every citizen maintaining the right to have a gun or guns without government interference (even though there are already some controls in place backed up by the high courts).
There is a quandary, a dilemma, a conundrum, if you will, on how to square the Second Amendment with the need to protect the public from gun carelessness and violence.
It seems that the popular interpretation of what to me seems a rather ambiguous part of the Constitution is that the amendment guarantees every person a right to keep and bear arms, that is to have his or her own gun or guns. In fact, the fervent supporters of the Second Amendment see it all as cut and dry — no ambiguity of all.
While I passively support the Second Amendment, when I think of it, I wrestle with what it really means. I mean for now I just go along with that popular interpretation, which at least indirectly seems to be supported by the high courts so far. And that is that people have a right to own guns (with some limits).
I don’t have the time or energy at this writing to get into a long and involved, but really at some point quite necessary, analysis of the wording of the amendment and its history (and I think the answer lies in its history). But I will say that one sentence, and well actually I think it really only contains one sentence, seems to tie the right to keep and bear arms with something about a “well regulated militia“. I doubt, whatever the framers meant by that, that it directly connects to our situation today. We have national armed forces and state national guards that can be federalized at any time. The only militias we have are private groups with no official status (thanks heavens!).
And I just thought, to add confusion to this, did they mean for the militias to be a protector of “states rights” (a concept once used to protect the right of people in the Southern states to hold other folks as slaves, and nowadays used as a weapon by the far right against just about anything they don‘t like)?
But I think the accepted notion is that the framers wanted to make sure that the common people could be armed and ready to defend themselves, rather than in the old world way where the monarch had the exclusive right to his or her own army and weapons. This would be a protection from the return of tyranny either by people not simply being dependent upon a tyrannical government for their own defense or by the fact that the ruling class would know that the people could rise up and rebel at any time.
And I do wholeheartedly subscribe to the notion that if guns are made illegal only criminals will have them.
But really, a young man kills two people at a Portland area shopping mall (and it could have been more if his gun had not jammed) with a military assault rifle. I mean should anyone be able to have such a weapon and just take it along to the mall?
There of course have been other recent incidents (and they never really stop): A professional football player shot his girlfriend and then took his own life with a gun and a little child found a gun his dad left on the car seat while they were traveling and accidentally shot himself. The police called that a “tragic accident”. Well of course it was an accident but how could a parent think it safe to leave a loaded gun on the car seat?
And I read of a recent incident in which a child of a cop was killed when he (or she?) found his gun. And one of those incidents involving the child of a cop happened in the area where I live not long ago and I think still another one in the Sacramento area not long ago either. But all of this is an ongoing thing.
Of course I am sure that the vast majority of the public is either ambivalent or indifferent to the whole subject, while others are staunchly pro guns with no to very little control and others are completely or all but anti-gun.
Oh, and the gun on the car seat thing reminds me that a relative of mine used to carry a gun in his car when his family went on trips for the protection when being stranded out in the middle of nowhere, I imagine. The law on that notwithstanding, such action carries with it tremendous responsibility.
Yeah, I still come down on the side of the Second Amendment and the idea that people should have a right to own guns, but it sure carries with it heavy responsibility and apparently a whole lot of gun owners are not responsible.
The official text of the Second Amendment is indeed one sentence:
“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.”
Interpret that any way you want. A lot of other people have.