Mass shootings in the United States, sad to say, seem to be like air crashes, freeway fatalities, fires, and floods — we see the horror and we think: goodness, that could have been me or one or more of my family. But it wasn’t. And life goes on — well, except for the victims.
I have to think at this moment that will be the case for the recent triple, close-together occurrence of mass shootings in Gilroy, Ca.; El Paso, Tx. and Dayton, Ohio. Maybe I am wrong and it will result in some serious movement toward gun control or an outright ban on military-style assault weapons which most people, including hunters, believe that there is no need for among the populace. But when nothing was done after the Sandy Hook mass killing — of little children in school — I cannot see why anything would change now.
And then there is this:
I read a story that said a Walmart clerk in El Paso, after the mass shooting there, pondered getting herself a gun for protection. And really, if we are to cling to the notion that citizens have the right to own and carry guns and that such a right is as sacrosanct as anything in the Holy Bible then the only true defense we have is to shoot back to protect ourselves.
But the problem with that is manyfold. Even the best soldier cannot be on guard all the time — and what kind of weapon would one choose? Are you going to sling an AR-15 rifle over your shoulder or better yet, carry it in the ready to aim and fire position 24-7? Or are you going to pack a more practical handgun of some type? And if you do will you be able to get to it before the bad guy? Or will you mistakenly feel that you are facing a deadly threat and end up killing an unarmed person who meant no harm after all, or may have not been capable of doing you harm? Well, that is what some cops do (and I have some empathy for them. I mean they would rather live to see another day than die while trying to instantly judge whether their life is in imminent danger — best to cooperate with cops; they get nervous).
And seriously, having guns around the house and elsewhere is dangerous. So often little kids get ahold of them with fatal results. Also, an intruder is likely to use your own gun against you. Not saying guns for self protection is not a good idea, but they bring with them a heavy burden of responsibility.
There is some indication that the once mighty NRA lobby is weakening due to internal squables. Also, perhaps, some of its members, hunters and other gun enthusiasts, may be realizing that it is a lobby just as much or more in the interests of gun manufacturers and the gun trade in general as the rights of individual citizens. One of my late uncles was a hunter and World War II veteran but he had no use for the NRA.
From what I read, polling indicates that a wide majority of Americans favor gun control and see no need for private citizens to be militarily armed — that is with weapons whose only purpose is mass killing of humans. But for some reason most legislators are reluctant to pass gun control or weapons ban legislation. That NRA lobby money and support or threat of unseating an incumbent (with money-fueled bad publicity) is a power that even the citizenry can’t seem to conquer.
And let’s talk about the Second Amendment. You can read it. It is only one sentence. And Supreme Court interpretations aside, it is, to say the least, ambiguous because it somehow ties gun rights to military use (further complicating interpretation is that there are I think at least two versions of that sentence with differing punctuation). It uses the word “militia”. But certainly the framers were not talking about those would-be vigilantes these days who go out into the woods wearing camouflage. And as I have written before, I am no more afraid of terrorists than I am of vigilantes. Both pose a threat to my own life and liberty. I prefer a recognized form of authority over which I have some bit of control by the ability to share my vote with other like-minded citizens — we call it democracy, not rule of the jungle.
There was the thought back in the time of our framers that the citizenry had the right to protect themselves rather than depend upon a standing army controled by a central government — kind of like the armies of the Kings of old. In fact, the framers I believe abhorred the thought of a standing army. Apparently, though, we got over that.
Sometimes you will read that the militia referred to in the Second Amendment has been subsumed into the National Guard units of each state. I’m not even sure that such makes sense. I mean these days the National Guard is all but a branch of the U.S. Army Reserve, in that in the past decades now guard units have been sent overseas to fight our far-flung conflicts. That is not to say that the guard does not also provide valuable service in protection to the populace in natural disasters — in fact that is the problem. Way back during the Katrina hurricane it was reported that the guard was short of resources to help the beleaguered people of New Orleans due to its commitments in the Middle East.
And some people put forth the idea that the citizenry should be armed to protect itself against the tyranny of a central government. I don’t know about that one. If you engage in armed rebellion against the central government that central government is not going to cave because you say you have a constitutional right.
I have more than once written that I cling to the belief — to some degree — in the Second Amdendment, despite its ambiguity. And I still do. I mean I think we can deal with our current threat from mass shootings without touching the second item in our Bill of Rights. It is after all uniquely American.
First, a ban on the trade of military assault weapons would seem like a good idea. Not as easy as it sounds in that one has to wrestle with the interpretation of what constitues a military assault weapon — and more conventional rifles and handguns can be modified to make them essentially operate like bona fide assault weapons.
A widescale confiscation of weapons, of any kind, would not be a good idea. There would be widespread resistance to the government coming to get your stuff — as there should be.
We hear a lot about background checks. There are already background check laws on the books — on a state and federal level I think. But they are not coordinated and have loopholes. And many of the mass shooters seem to have obtained their weapons legally (in some cases passing background checks or maybe they fit into a loophole). But even a lot of gun advocates seem to essentially support background checks.
And I am not going much farther with all of this. It just seems like what we have to do as a first step is to reduce or all but eliminate the easy access to military assault weapons.
You can argue it is about angry and lonely white guys, white nationalism, lack of mental health care and so on. But controlling human behavior is impossible and in many instances would seem counter to individual freedom. Put another way, let crazy guys be crazy, just make it unlikely that the individual will have access to weapons.
I personally am not a hunter and I do not go out to the gun range but I would like to maintain the right to do so. I do not, however, necesarilly worry about depriving people of the right to shoot military assault weapons at a gun range — but perhaps we can maintain that right while having a general ban of military assualt weapons.
(As an aside, I should mention that I have handled and fired weapons of various types in civilian and army life, from hunting rifles to hand guns to machine guns to the main gun on an army tank, so I am not clueless about weapons.)
And finally. We are a violent society. I am not at all sure why. I once took a class in college where the instructor said that during the westward movement of North America, Canada established law in far-flung outposts first — you know, the Mounties — whereas in the United States it was a free for all initially — like no law west of the Pecos.
We have that uniquely American independent spirit. You gotta be rough and able to protect yourself and not give up your individual rights to anyone.
It’s our choice. How much safety for ourselves and our children are we wiling to sacrifice in the name of the Second Amendment? The Second Amendment itself is not really a block to some kind fo sensible gun control. I mean the Supreme Court in its limited dealings with it has proven that it can be read just about any way you want it to.