“How is it that we can have a citizenry that is available to protect itself that is entirely unable to protect itself?” Bryan Clark
Before I get started on the newest installment of the Fireside Issues series, I want to make a clarification. This was originally a project with a weekly intent. It has already been a few weeks since the first installment, so we can see how that is going. The clarification is that I like to juggle lots of different projects, and I tend to meander in and out of them as I have time and interest. I still am committed to regular posting, and I will try to keep that as close to weekly as I can. This has been the reality of The Fireside Post for almost ten years, so hopefully our readers will understand. Do feel free to hold me accountable to that in the comments section, though. It has more to do with being careless with my commitments than anything. I am working on being more careful with my commitments, so I will change my commitment to “regular posting” and try to make it a weekly rhythm. That is that.
On to the issue. My first disclaimer on this topic is this: I am not anti-gun. I am not anti-gun rights. I realize that this might be too much to ask from some of the factions on this issues, but I ask that we try not to pit ourselves against each other. You will see why in a bit, and it is an important part of this debate. We need to be able to disagree on some of the parts of the solution, but we are being led to argue against one another, in a calculated way, so that we are constantly at each other’s throats rather than working together to tackle the tough issues of our day. I am not going to spend much time talking about gun ownership today, because I do not believe that gun ownership is creating any of the problems that we are having with gun violence in our society. I am, however, going to talk about the mass proliferation of high power weapons by the gun manufacturing industry. If, in your eyes, that makes me a flaming liberal anti-American zealot, then we may not be able to have this conversation. Feel free to leave this here and move on to a protesting article that you can be enraged about. Or stay and be enraged about this one. Fine by me.
One of my earlier memories about hanging out with my father was when we would travel out to Pigeon Hill, a wildlife refuge and conservation area just outside of town, and shoot clay pigeons that we would throw from a device that I thought was engineering magic. I always wished I had one when I was playing Frisbee with my uncles. Anyway, my dad was a member of the NRA at the time (he might still be, but you would have to ask him about that), and he had been a deputy Sheriff in his younger years. He taught me gun safety and maintenance. We cleaned and oiled the guns. I got to fire his Ruger .38 and I had my own guns that I would shoot, like the Marlin 60 .22 that I got for a birthday present and the 410 shotgun that I am convinced my dad gave me so that I could go in front of him and knock down tall weeds when we were small game hunting on our camping trips. We had BB guns and my dad always had a revolver with him when we were camping to protect us from snapping turtles. I am not trying to trivialize the use and function of guns and the contribution of hunters to our society, I am just saying that I grew up around guns, I always liked them, and I have no problem with anyone owning them or firing them whenever they have the itch. Have at it.
I am going to depart from some of my more progressive friends here as well. I actually don’t care what kind of gun you have. I don’t care how many bullets it shoots in ten seconds. I don’t care if it can penetrate the engine block of a diesel truck. I am partly saying that to set myself up for my next point, but I should also point out that I actually don’t care about any of that stuff. It all seems like a strange obsession to me, but it is an obsession protected by our Founding Fathers, so whatever makes you happy, go for it. Speaking of those founding fellows, let us look at what they all agreed on for language in our second amendment to the Constitution:
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.
I don’t see anywhere in that statement that you have the right to shoot someone, and it also doesn’t mention manufacturing or industry. In 2008, the The Supreme Court decided that this does apply to individual gun ownership and not just to militias, like the Army National Guard. You do have the commitment from the Constitution that your right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. This includes bearing arms. Like, carrying them around. In fact, 45 of our 50 sates allow citizens to openly carry a firearm. That is an exercise in our Constitutional freedom and a testament to the voice of the people in state decisions. If you don’t like it, get organized and change it. This is democracy at work, folks. Get used to it.
Now it is time to shift gears a bit. We have a crisis on our hands, one that takes the lives of our citizens, our children, and our cherished friends and neighbors. According to CBS report, the United States is one of the world’s leaders in deaths from gun violence, and Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than in other developed countries. How is it that we can have a citizenry that is available to protect itself that is entirely unable to protect itself? How can we have one of the most trained and highly weaponized police forces on the planet and still have this ugly stain of gun death on our doorstep? Our guns are making us less safe, not more so. I can sum it up, and I hope that I have made my case so far about where I think this needs to be enforced: regulation on the gun industry.
Yes, there is still a place for regulation in the gun debate. Not on our citizens, but on the industry that mass produces these weapons for profit. This is a powerful industry with deep pockets. The NRA is the single largest recipient of the lobbying money from that industry. They are not interested in public safety or the common good. They are not interested in curbing violence or protecting our children. I am not trying to vilify them, they are really only trying to make as much money as possible. That is our system. We like the money makers – in fact I like the money makers because they spur our economy on to bigger and better things. We have always, however, found ways to protect our citizens from the powers of runaway capitalism. We regulate pharmaceuticals, automobiles, building codes, pollution, and all kinds of other dangers inherent in our economic system. We have to balance profit with safety, otherwise we end up with the kinds of calamities like critical smog, train derailments, horrendous highway accidents from overworked truck drivers, and crippling side effects that could have been avoided had the drug company revealed the danger.
We have to protect our society. It is a moral imperative. We have to stop arguing about which guns you can own and which guns I can own. That has mostly been settled. There are some things that are still debated, like sawed off shotguns, that have no use other than to kill large numbers of people and are only used by people looking to incite fear and death. That isn’t the underlying issue, though. Those guns are currently illegal, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It just means that the people who have them are criminal, which is who had them before anyway. That is a valid argument. The real culprit here is an industry unchecked, riding the wave of public fear and anger to profits beyond your imagination. This is an industry that is more interested in whipping up fear to make sales than it is in finding a communal solution to our current dilemma. I suppose that is fair, since their driving purpose is to make more money; but where does that leave us?
I can tell you. It leaves us with more guns than we can buy; more weapons than we can manage; more death than we can stomach. We should not be tolerant of this kind of calamity. We will be, though, as long as we allow the mass proliferation of weapons to be ignored in our public conversation. I, for one, am not willing to do that. I intend to build a world that is safe and sustainable for my children, one where my son can learn about guns in a culture that is welcoming and responsible about them. I do hope that we can get there. I have hope, but not confidence. There is too much money at stake.
In the end, often, the money wins, and we get to clean up the mess. If you want to be proactive and avoid the mess, if you want to build the same future that I do for our children, please visit the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and get involved. Much like the case with the tobacco industry, nothing will change until the people collectively work to change it. We have to start now. If we postpone this, we will lose too many of our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and friends.
That is not acceptable.