Make no mistake: I am against gun ownership. I know there are thousands of peaceful gun owners out there who will wax poetic about hunting, self-defense and target shooting. There is the powerful NRA lobby who like to tell us that it is people, not guns, who kill. I respect all these people’s opinions, and it is my sincere hope that they will respect mine in return.
I must say that the NRA has a point. If someone is intent on killing me, he or she will undoubtedly do so whether guns are available or not. My killer will just use a knife or an explosive device or bonk me over the head or run me down with a car.
There are dozens of civilized nations in this world that have had the sanity to outlaw the possession of weapons. Many people, my wife included, pooh-pooh this idea on the premise that if guns were illegal, only criminals would have them. This is probably true, but at least then we could tell the good guys from the bad guys. If someone were caught with a gun, we wouldn’t have to wonder whether it was purchased legally or stolen or obtained through a straw man transaction. We wouldn’t have to figure out whether the owner enjoys mental health of sufficient quality to merit owning a gun. I think of the old-fashioned dramas in which the good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black. You can tell who is who. Today, I can’t tell who is who. I won’t hold it against you that you own a gun, neighbor. You use it for shooting at squirrels, right? Umm, right?
I guess I should modify that last paragraph. Even if guns were outlawed, it is not only criminals who would have them. Law enforcement would still have them. Anyone who’s ever played cops ‘n robbers knows that the police need guns. Both the cops and the robbers do the same thing with their guns, of course: They shoot people. As a native New Yorker, I feel bound to mention that, just this past weekend, the NYPD killed a teenager in Brooklyn and shot a motorist who tried to speed away from a traffic stop on Staten Island. Both of them had guns. See? If guns were outlawed, maybe they wouldn’t have had them and they wouldn’t have been shot. I know, I’m dreaming.
I think about the recent report of a man shot three people during a mediation session in Phoenix, killing one and injuring the others.
I think about the 15-year old girl who performed at one of President Obama’s inaugural events and was shot and killed in a Chicago park the following day. They haven’t found the guy yet, but law enforcement believes that the shooter may have mistaken the teen and her friends for rival gang members. Oops.
I don’t live in Chicago. I haven’t lived in New York for years. I live in small town America, and even here the number of people killed with guns blows my mind.
I think of the young mother who, while attending a wedding party at a bar on the main drag here in town, was shot to death by a guy whose gun “accidentally went off.” He didn’t intend to shoot anyone, you see. He was just beating someone up with the gun when it discharged. Oops.
I think of the young guy who shot and killed his girlfriend in the apartment complex a couple of streets over. I guess it really is a bad idea to be holding your gun while you’re arguing with your old lady. Things my mama never taught me.
So former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and severely injured during a public appearance in Tucson, spoke before the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of January to urge gun control legislation. “Too many children are dying,” she stated, a reference to the twenty children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut in December. “We must do something,” she said. “It will be hard, but the time to act is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”
Indeed. Thomas Friedman, in a fine book about globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, posited more than a decade ago that the lack of gun control in this country is nothing short of insanity. President Obama, reacting to the public outcry in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, has joined Gabrielle Giffords’ camp in asking Congress to act. But will our elected representatives be bold and courageous as she urges? I seriously doubt it.
After Ms. Giffords’ speech, which due to her injuries, she was able to give only with great difficulty, Judiciary Committee chair Patrick J. Leahy took the floor. “The Second Amendment is secure and will remain secure and protected,” he stated. “Americans have the right to self-defense and to have guns in their homes to protect their families. No one can or will take those rights or our guns away.”
I would ask Mr. Leahy to stop and think for a moment about the fact that the only thing a gun is designed to do is to kill. Whether it be a prize buck, an intruder into your home or 20 first graders, that is the only purpose of a gun.
I think about the moviegoers, out for a night of fun at a Batman premiere, who were gunned down in cold blood in a suburban Denver theater.
I think about the innocent students and teachers who were systematically killed in their classrooms at Virginia Tech.
I think about Columbine.
So which will it be, the Second Amendment or the Sixth Commandment? The right to bear arms or thou shalt not kill?
I believe that the Second Amendment was vital in the late eighteenth century when our infant nation was struggling for independence. The Founding Fathers knew what it was like to suffer under the thumb of a tyrannical regime that preferred that those rogue colonists have no weapons with which to challenge the ruling powers. Nearly two and a half centuries later, that time has passed. The need that existed then no longer exists now. Unfortunately, the Bill of Rights has acquired a sacrosanct aura that no politician who wishes to be re-elected will touch with a ten-foot pole.
I think about the Bible. I remember asking a Christian friend, years ago, why Christians have cast off the Old Testament rules when the Old Testament is still a part of the Christian Bible. The validity of those rules have passed, she explained, since Jesus paid for our sins in full with his blood. I believe that the Second Amendment has passed as well, it’s validity having been nullified by a world of gangs, drive-by shootings and Adam Lanza. We have paid for our sins in full with the blood of our children.
I have never visited Sandy Hook School, although I lived in the neighboring town of Bethel for several years. Newtown was a favorite of mine back then. Its diner was a regular stop on the way home after my shift ended past one in the morning. And I loved the book sales at the Charlotte Hungerford Public Library. I brought only a handful of books with me when I moved to California, but one of my treasured volumes from Newtown still graces my bookcase.
No, I had never heard of Sandy Hook School before that fateful December day. But, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein Sandy Hooker. And my German accent is a lot better than his was.