The tragedy in the small village of Newtown, Connecticut has sparked yet another nationwide debate on the pros and cons of gun laws. And without giving the families even a few days to mourn, a political frenzy has broken out with both sides claiming the killings were the fault of either too little or too much gun regulation.
Within hours of the massacre, The Gun Owners of America issued a statement saying: “Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combine to ensure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones.”
On the other end of the spectrum, a number of more liberal publications followed Highbrow Magazine’s lead with headlines that blared out: “Stop the Insanity: It’s Time to ban Guns and End the Violence!” The story was similar to wide-ranging commentary saying that “The eventual passage of fresh gun restrictions would at least send the right signal that the gun lobby is not invincible and that millions of Americans want and demand anything that will at least potentially head off the next rampage.”
Since I host a nationally syndicated radio program, I listened all this week to the competition. Now talk radio in the South where I live carry’s a much more conservative slant. This is die-hard gun country, where caller after caller spit out the mantra that “they will have to pry away my gun from my cold dead hands.”
Gun supporters point to guarantees for gun ownership in the Second Amendment of the constitution. But the most recent Supreme Court decision on guns, the 2008 Heller case that challenged the District of Columbia's gun limitations, listed several areas where gun restrictions would apply. Writing for the majority of the Court, Justice Scalia concluded: “From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right (to keep and bear arms) was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Nothing in the Heller ruling, Scalia said should be read to cast doubt on "longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."
Friends from New York were down to visit recently and asked why anyone would want or need a gun. I patiently explained that hunting was a way of life in many parts of the country. Hunting for ducks in the Louisiana marsh, or coveys of doves in a cut over north Louisiana cornfields with my son and daughters has been a rewarding family experience for many years.
I have given each of my children a pistol after spending time with them on a gun range. Why? Let’s say you are driving along a lightly traveled highway late at night, and your car has engine problems. You pull off the side of the road and a car pulls up behind you. Several intimidating thugs get out of the car to “offer help.” Would your pistol make a difference? I think so. A few shots in the air and a stream of obscenities would, in most instances, scare off a potential threat. Wouldn’t it be better to be a defensive aggressor than a passive victim?
On the other hand, reasonable checks and balances for those possessing a gun should not be that onerous, assuming some common sense is applied when putting such regulations in place. Those favoring no regulation will tell us that guns don’t kill people; it’s people who kill people. But do those of such mindset say the same thing when a drunk driver kills an innocent bystander? Cars don’t kill people, drunks do?
That argument just doesn’t fly anywhere in America. You certainly have a right to own and drive a car. But with some restrictions. States require a driver’s license, safety belts, crash safety standards, insurance, and a host of other rules of the road that most drivers assume are reasonable.
But all these proposed tighter gun laws really will have little effect on a deranged killer who has serious mental issues. Identifying disturbed individuals and seeing that proper care is available continues to be a serious problem nationwide. Here in my home state of Louisiana, the Governor is shutting down the only major mental health hospital in the state because of “budget priorities.” Does it take another serious shooting for the powers that be to wake up to the serious growing mental heath problems of a growing number of disturbed individuals?
Texas’ quixotic governor Rick Perry proposed his own solution this week. Arm all the teachers, or any other worker in harm’s way. Since there have been several serious Mall shootings, I would assume that the governor would arm all employees there, also. In Rick Perry’s world, the Mall would offer Uzi’s and smoothies.
Over one hundred fifty years ago (1857), British historian Thomas Macaulay made this dire prediction for America: “Your republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the 20th century as the Roman Empire in the 5th century; with this difference, that the Huns and Vandals that ravaged the Roman Empire came from without, and that your Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country, by your own institutions.”
There has to be some reasonable compromise to let those of us who own pistols and rifles for hunting and for protection to continue to do so unabated by government interference. But automatic assault rifles designed for human killing? We’ve reached a tipping point. Banning assault weapons doesn’t limit my freedom. No, it gives all law-abiding citizens less sense of fear from crime and terrorism. It just makes common sense.