|Locked and Loaded|
|Written by Jack King - BT Contributor|
Want to own a gun? Join a well-regulated militia
I can’t believe that there is anyone in America who was not thoroughly disgusted with the killing of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, with the possible exception of the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre.
Certainly there are still more questions than answers. Questions like what drives a person to do such things, and do we as a society have a responsibility to prohibit easy access to devices that allowed Adam Lanza to kill so many people in such a short time?
We’ve had gun violence in this country for some 400 years, but never has it been so efficient as it is now. My guess that rapid-fire guns were developed because shooting a bullet into a three-inch-square target at 100 meters is very difficult and very few can do it. So why not create a weapon that fires hundreds of bullets in a short period of time in the hopes that you’ll hit something? It works.
Gun violence got close to me in high school. My stepfather bought me a shotgun to use for quail hunting. I went out shooting with it a number of times, but it wasn’t really a sport for me. While I was on a trip, my stepfather, who was in failing health, took my gun and killed himself. To say the least, it left a lasting impression and began the development of my dislike of all firearms. They are meant to kill something. Nothing else.
Several years later I was hitchhiking home from college for Thanksgiving. A man stopped and I got in, and before I could say anything, he pointed to the radio and said, “Did you hear this? Kennedy has been shot.” I was so mortified I couldn’t speak, and didn’t say a word for three hours. It was so profound that I can tell you precisely when it happened. I got into that car at the corner of State Road 40 and U.S. 441 in Ocala, Florida, and the time was 1:50 p.m.
I had the wonderful experience of meeting Kennedy several times when he was vacationing in Palm Beach. Never quite got over this one either.
For me one of the disappointments of President Obama’s first term was the lack of any initiative to curb gun violence. The general reason was that the Supreme Court had ruled there was a constitutional protection to have guns. The right-wing neo-Nazis in this country believed that the ruling was absolute and went about convincing more normal people that this was the case.
It was not. The ruling was very narrow and pertained to keeping guns in your Washington, D.C., house. No more, no less. But the damage was done and no one on the left wanted to pick a losing fight -- no matter how many people died on the streets.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads like this: “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.”
Many people believe the second part of that one-sentence amendment stands alone. It does not -- otherwise the entire meaning is changed. What it means is this: The government should maintain a militia, and if you are a member, you can own a gun. At that time, United States had no standing army, and the militia was akin to what we have now with the National Guard. So my take on this is that if you do not belong the National Guard, your right to own a gun is whatever our representative government says it is.
All of the amendments have nuances, something the Supreme Court has recognized for years. The First Amendment gave us the right of free speech, but the courts have ruled that you have no right scream, “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire.
I’m so happy that the NRA, after a week of silence, decided to get into the discussion because they wanted to “contribute” to the dialogue. Their $1.5 million-per-year mouthpiece, Wayne LaPierre, started the dialogue by lecturing the American public on the value of the NRA, then telling us that the media were the problem, and finally arguing that the only way to solve the problem of mass shooting is to have more guns by hiring armed security at every school in America.
So let’s see, if a mass murderer comes to school with a handgun, you bring a handgun and start shooting. If he comes to school with an automatic weapon, you bring an automatic weapon and start shooting. This might get somewhere if both sides have tanks!
Where does all this leave us? I hope we’ll start a dialogue that will bring about meaningful gun management. My fear is that it will never happen. And that’s yet another tragedy for our children and grandchildren.
Volume 12, Issue 8. October 2014
The Smithsonian honors a local documentary photographer
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