More Notes from an Unrepentant Lefty: Why is it that neither I nor President Obama Want to Take your Gun
In light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut, December 14, 2012, I guess that I have a few thoughts to share.
I can remember speaking with my grandfather years ago; he is still living at 99. What does that portend in regards to my longevity? He was raised in Louisiana and East Texas and told us these accounts in his teens that he remembered vividly of Bonnie and Clyde at large in the area during the early 1930’s. Paying attention to my fascination with his brush with history, he tended to embellish the stories each time just a bit more. If we continued, he probably would have told me that he was actually a member of the “Barrow Gang” at some point.
When I reflect on his words in the light of this recent tragedy, as he is not so coherent today, I come to a conclusion or two which I hope to go into as part of this article. Even in the depths of the Depression Era South, everybody knew that there was a clear line drawn between the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’. In a region of the country and at a time where most everybody was armed, there was far less danger than can be found in our most bucolic suburbs today.
As a young man, I paid a visit to London, England during the late 1970’s with great anticipation and full of curiosity and questions. When I was at a bank exchanging dollars for pound (sterling), I started a conversation with a ‘bobbie’ (police officer). I was curious as to why he was armed only with a baton rather than the standard firearm worn by his American counterpart. He told me that in their society to assault a law enforcement officer was ‘below the belt’ and that even the criminal element played within certain rules of behavior. I guess the best word that I can find to describe this is ‘civility’. There were some things that people just did not do and an entire society and culture were based on this commonly held understanding. However, 1978 was long ago, and things could have changed. But that moment was profound and explained the real difference between homicide rates in the U.S and those of Britain and to a large extent Western Europe.
After conferring with the politically left and right regarding this issue, I like to think that I have evolved in my viewpoint on this matter.
Where the Conservatives are Correct
The point many of them make is true that even though this particular instance of mass murder with firearms is most heinous, relative to the instances of gun violence across the nation in general, it is statistically insignificant.
Even though Hawaii has the least amount of gun ownership and Wyoming has the most, I do not see Wyoming as a hotbed of firearm related crimes and violence. I lived in Southeastern Montana for 2 to 3 years and the hunting culture was the overriding theme. These guys promised to take me snipe hunting with them, someday. Guns were everywhere but so were respect and responsible behavior. The vast majority of the people that own firearms are responsible law abiding members of society. It is not fair to penalize these people for the abuse of less than a few.
We live in a violent society and there is a legitimate need for people to arm themselves against intruders in their homes, for example. The ‘make my day’ laws and ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ practices do have their place.
Banning ownership of firearms is a mere band-aid to a far deeper problem. We are going to find ways to continue to kill one another, regardless. Civility is what keeps us from killing one another, not restricting the implement as to how that is accomplished. Perhaps we need to look at ourselves rather than the implement.
For all of us the 2nd Amendment is part of the foundation that our country was built upon and for many tampering with it is akin to touching God’s eyeball. We all have to work together to avoid the draconian.
Where Progressives Prevail
First of all the comments I have been hearing from conservative pundits on television are ridiculous. If the teachers and administrators were all armed they could have killed the assailant during the Connecticut tragedy. The idea that we provide six shooters for six year olds is not very appealing. Living in a Dodge City, Tombstone or Virginia City environment is indication of a society devolving. That is NOT an acceptable solution.
While, statistically, events like the Connecticut tragedy are exceedingly rare, there is nothing in place to prevent its like from occurring every other weekend. Those that cherish their gun possession rights need to recognize that the status quo is not good enough.
Increasing criminal penalties for such crimes have little or no deterrent effect on the criminally insane as they are just as likely to take their own lives in commission of these crimes.
I am not going to buy as some on the right have suggested that violence depicted in the media “Hollywood” bears some responsibility. The First Amendment is sacrosanct for me, anyway.
More discussion from the right reveals an idea that possession of firearms is based on need to oppose an oppressive government. That is so 18th century. It sounds today much more like an anticipated insurrection against legitimate elected government by those in the minority that do not agree with the majority, and there is a word for that ‘treason’.
So Where is the Compromise?
President Obama, contrary to the rants from the right, has carefully stepped around the issue over his first term in office. This is much akin to avoiding a landmine within the political landscape.
The left has to concede to the fact, that we cannot and should not take guns away from the general public based on these outrages. But, the right has to recognize that things cannot continue the way they have been. We just cannot accept that these occurrences are like a bolt of lightening, helpless as to when and where it is going to strike. These outrages have been going on over the last 20 years and many are saying that enough is enough.
This means that all weapons have to be registered and thereby the purchaser subject to background checks. Will it solve the problem in total, I doubt it. But we need to do any and everything necessary to make certain that those escapees from the asylum find it more difficult to obtain a firearm.
Criminal penalties are put in place for any firearm sales that are conducted between parties outside the registration process. The same for someone who sells a firearm to anyone who fails a background check for any reason.
The other side of the equation is determination of mental illness of an individual to the point that he or she may pose a danger to society. We have to do a better job of this and be so careful in the process of turning an observation to a point of law used to legally restrict the right of an individual that would be available to anyone else. Who makes the determination and how is it to be recorded so that it appears reliably under a background check when a mentally disturbed person tries to purchase a firearm? We may have to start evaluating children in grade school, monitoring behavior and social cohesion to identify problem adults early. But that has a slippery slope of its own.
In conclusion, because we are not the people that we once were, we are forced to now to question the relevance of what was always considered inviolate, the 2nd Amendment.