Last week yet another act of senseless violence rocked our nation. I have many strong feelings about the entire incident, including the media’s coverage of it. What I really want to speak about though is the conversation about guns we always have when something like this happens.
These debates are rarely reasoned, always emotionally charged and often engaged in with a vitriol that is right out of a soap opera. We need more intelligent discussion about the matter. It is a shame that there is not more. I did however come across this gem making the rounds on FB: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/if2nht.
Now I like most of what Mr. Alexander has to say here. I did however find one or two flaws in his reasoning, so I responded thus:
Dear Mr. Alexander;
I appreciate most of your sentiment in regards to the Aurora shootings and the state of things in America. I do wish to correct in regards to your statements about the Constitution and express some of my own feelings on the issue of gun control.
You are correct that the exact wording in the 2nd Amendment calls for a “well regulated militia.” The matter, however, does not end there. For as long as there has been judicial review in this country our courts have looked to the Federalist Papers as the means to interpret the intention behind the Constitution. To this end the courts long ago interpreted the meaning of the 2nd Amendment to be the need to make sure the populace is armed in the event of a *legitimately* tyrannical government.
That last bit is important. Sharon Angle’s comments two years ago about 2nd Amendment “solutions” was both shallow in its understanding of the Constitution and dangerous. Guns are not meant to supplant the electorate, but to support it. If the vote does not go your way and you whip your supporters into a violent frenzy, you are officially a traitor.
Our right to bear arms is an important component of our freedom. With out it, either the state itself, or, as you pointed out, those that have corrupted it both from within and without could easily bully us into compliance. They have come so close even with the 2nd Amendment in place.
All that said, however, I do believe in more sensible firearms control. There should be waiting periods, for all weapons, and those waiting periods should be directly proportional to the danger the type of weapon represents (hunting rifle<handgun<assault rifle etc.) Also, anyone wishing to own an assault rifle should have to prove competency. They should have a signed statement from a licensed psychiatrist assuring the public that they are not a harm to themselves or others. Convicted violent felons should never be able to own assault rifles or handguns.
Contrary to popular belief America is not just discovering polemic discourse. It has been around at least from the time of Hearst. The Internet Age, however, has made it easier for anyone to engage in this sort of hyperbolic, short-sighted dialogue. Both sides of the gun debate dig in their heels and neither side seems willing to give an inch. Honest, reasoned debate is thrown out the window.
We owe more to ourselves though, and hopefully sometime soon we will realize that. I found your essay mostly insightful. It encourages me, the one or two flaws I found in it aside, to believe we can, as a society, engage in real, productive conversations about all of the issues facing our nation, our species and our world.
Pax et Amor;
This, folks, is what a real discussion looks like. No calling gun rights advocates violent neanderthals. No calling gun control advocates wimpy hippies. We can and must do better as a society. If we do not, we are selling ourselves short and ensuring a far more difficult future than is necessary.