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Entries in Second Amendment (2)

Friday
Mar142014

My pen is mightier than your pistol

Senators Mitch McConnell and John Coburn--brothers in arms.

 

We've had five years of President Obama and still no gun confiscations!

Your firearm can't coerce an entire segment of fearful, paranoid citizens to engage each other on the crucial political question of our era. But with a few key strokes I can stake a convincing argument that they should.

To begin, we should address the link between Second Amendment fanaticism and voter disengagement. Ever since opponents of healthcare reform began showing up to town hall events  tooled up with a firearm in the summer of 2009, open carry has been noticeably open for business at political gatherings.

The 2014 Conservative Political Action Committee hoe-down featured an award ceremony whereby Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY) got to shuffle on stage to wave a rifle "cold dead hands"-style. He presented it to retiring Sen. John Coburn (OK)--the National Rifle Associaton's "Courage Under Fire" badge of merit.

And more recently a Second Amendment rights group Come and Take It Texas, marched a gaggle of gun-clutching demonstrators through the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Media sources suggested the group organized in reaction to a SXSW panel entitled "Disrupting the Gun Lobby With Digital Organizing"--yes, you read that correctly: 'digital organizing' not 'gun seizure'; you wouldn't know it given Come And Take It's armed response.

How does brandishing a firearm at a political gathering achieve any political objective other than appease the gun wavers' sense of powerlessness? Why is there a need to intimidate bystanders in an era we flatter ourselves to believe has evolved beyond the lawless Wild West?

It is nothing less than perplexing to hear the gun waving community refer repetitively to a "Second Amendment solution" for so-called tyranny when they have yet to exhaust the provisions of the First Amendment. Yes, this nation endures an immense rift between the will of its citizens and the public policy decisions made by government. There's no dispute about that.

However, neither pistol or rifle have been wielded as an instrument of reform in a way that strengthens the republic. What would strengthen the bond between citizens is a sustained conversation about the outsized influence of money in politics; especially about what voters can do to outmaneuver and overcome it.

For all those who showed up armed to oppose Obamacare in 2009 it would have never occurred to them that the legislation being drafted had been purchased by health insurance- and pharmaceutical industry money. Their weapons would have been useless to stop the transaction of influence peddling that happens everyday in our capital and state houses across the country.

The original 13 colonies that founded our nation did not decide to join together their respective fates by threat of a musket shot. Rather, through serious debate and compromise they chose independence fromm England and a constitutional form of self-rule.

What threatens self-rule today isn't some trumped up government conspiracy to take away a gun owner's weapons. As citizens we risk losing our republic to elite financial interests who have purchased the policy making capacity of our legislatures. Long before election day arrives the candidate that one decides to vote for has been bought off. Why? Because no plurality of voters took exception to the candidate's coffers being filled by wealthy funders and political action committees.

The First Amendment protects the right to peaceably assemble and petition our government for redress of grievances. How could I possibly suggest the gun enthusiast has underutilized these provisions? From the simple fact they have not converged to demand election finance accountability from the political  candidates who campaign to represent them.

Far too many Second Amendment fanatics see themselves as lone settlers on a lawless frontier rather than as citizens of a greater national tapestry. As isolated citizens they wield very little political force to restore accountability to government; a shortcoming for which they believe--too tragically--a loaded firearm suffices.

Monday
May132013

Guns don't kill people, gun owners do

Let us concede that gun rights advocates have won the argument: guns don’t kill people, people do.

However, there is a certain class of people that merit a greater share of the blame for the mass casualty events our communities have endured. For lack of a more accurate term let’s call them, “gun owners”. As well, we must acknowledge that gun owners are largely responsible (by commission and omission) for the constant blood letting since Sandy Hook (as of 8 May 2013 3,947 have perished since the 14 Dec. 2012 Newtown, Conn. massacre). Daily Kos writer, David Waldman has been tracking accidental firearm casualties since Sandy Hook—a log that reads like an almanac of nightmarish negligence.

In spite of the evidence conveying the hazard of firearms ownership, it’s still useless to debate gun control. At best, it has resulted in a stalemate over background checks. Even gun control proponents admit this measure of accountability would not have stopped someone like Adam Lanza from carrying out the slaughter at Sandy Hook. A background check would not have prevented five-year-old Kristian Sparks from the unintentional slaying of his two-year-old sister, Caroline. Again, guns don’t kill people; but it so happens that the relatives of gun owners do.

Since we are fully convinced of the human culpability when a firearm tragedy strikes, it stands to reason that this is where the effort to curb gun violence should focus. Rather than trying to contain or limit weaponry, our attention should fix upon the gun owning community. Did you know that seventy nine per cent of the massacres that have taken place in the U.S. over the last 33 years were committed by someone who had legal access to the firearm used in the crime? So, why not increase gun owner accountability going forward—especially to other gun owners?

As for the constitutionality of this proposal, here is where gun owner accountability intersects with the Second Amendment—specifically, the often ignored “well-regulated militia” phrase. As has been the case in a number of mass shooting tragedies, the perpetrator profiles as a socially isolated, or outcast, male. Putting the “well-regulated militia” phrase to work would mean requiring all registered gun owners to meet with each other periodically (quarterly, semi-annually—it would be left to legislators to hammer out) to discuss gun safety, maintenance and the function of the gun-owning community within this nation.

The conversation could go in any number of directions. The crucial point of this process would be to help gun owners acknowledge their right to bear arms is not an open-ended freedom. Its parameters involve not just individual liberty, but also a concern for public safety, protecting children, and the effort to keep one another accountable about their firearms-related goals. (Everyone should have goals, no?)

Given a proposal such as this, one could imagine squeals of protest coming from every quarter of the firearms community—consumers, retailers, manufacturers and lobbyists. What is the alternative to shifting the debate? Wait for another massacre and then watch the predictable demand for a limit on weapons, or even a call for confiscations?

Gun owners could do worse than to step up to hold one another accountable. At any given day there’s a James Holmes or Jared Loughner waiting to snap, a stranded soul who could use a reality check of sorts—an intervention should it be needed. If the gun owning community believed in the preservation of the Second Amendment, shouldn’t it do its part to protect this freedom from abuse?

The other consequence of mandating a periodical gun owner meet would be to help them grasp that their right to bear arms can be just as vigorously defended by cooperating with other voters in a political action rather than by clutching a rifle. There is no question how much the fear of tyranny prevails among many gun enthusiasts. Who can be sure, however, if they have exhausted the opportunities that political activism offers? At the very least it requires a willingness to build trust with other citizens that can lead to a governing consensus. How else should a republic like ours survive without its citizens continually at work, developing the contours of consent?