It's Time. It's Past Time, in Fact
Let’s take a journey. It’s a journey through time, back to the years 1789 – 1791. The United States Congress were debating and creating what later became known as the United States Bill of Rights. On September 25, 1789, Congress sent to the thirteen states for ratification the amendments to the U. S. Constitution that gave the citizens certain rights.
Today, the second amendment has been the focus of much debate. This amendment reads, “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 tend to ignore the beginning of this amendment. The purpose behind this amendment was to ensure the United States had a “well-regulated Militia.” The young country knew it would have to depend on the citizens for protection against enemies, foreign and domestic. The United States Army was mostly just the citizens themselves.
Those are the facts, whether you like them or not. (A note here: Facts are facts. They are not malleable in order to create an alternative fact you like more than the real one.) Now, I realize this sounds as though I am going to suggest the government, which has the capability to protect the citizenry from attacks, can now outlaw guns. Not so. If you think that any suggestions limiting gun ownership is an attempt to remove your right to “keep and bear arms,” you are incorrect. I will get into this later, but before that, I need to continue our brief lesson in U. S. history.
In the late 1700’s, the “Arms” that Congress gave us the right to own were considerably different from what they are today. Yes, people realize this, but many don't actually think about it. The nation's leaders then could not imagine the many ways man could develop to kill one another. I’ve researched this, and at the time the Bill of Rights was ratified—December 15, 1791—a well-trained soldier could load and fire his weapon 2 – 3 times per minute. That’s about every 20 – 30 seconds per shot. Today, we have developed weapons that can easily fire 20 – 30 shots per second.
The good men of Congress back then also had no idea the level of insanity that would permeate our nation a couple of centuries later. They did not think, “What if someone wants to attack innocent children in a school?” They did not consider the question, “What if someone wants to attack people at a social gathering, such as a concert?” And if they did consider these questions, their response would have been, “Well, it takes at least twenty seconds to re-load, and by then the attacker could be stopped.”
Therefore, the right they guaranteed us did not take advancement in firearms into consideration. The smartest, most foresighted thinker among them would have laughed himself silly if someone had seriously suggested the idea that a gun could one day fire a bullet at what is today the amazingly slow rate of one shot per second. However, they did expect future generations to make laws that were more in keeping with the times, which is why they allowed for changes to the Constitution in the first place.
Quite honestly, there have been too many school shootings. Sadly, there has been debate as to how to count school shootings. How odd we have to debate that. The gun advocates step forward and claim the numbers are inflated by the definitions being used. To that I say, so how many would be too many? It's sad that anyone would try to point out there have been "only" a certain number of school shootings, which is less than another reported figure. I'm sorry, but if one is not too many for you, I have to wonder about your morality.
Now, let’s talk about the guns available today and whether or not the average citizen should be allowed to “keep and bear (any damn) Arms” they want. First, while we would probably take up arms to fight against a foreign power that made the unwise decision to invade our country, the citizens would not be the group the invading army would fear most, if really at all. We citizens don’t own tanks or GPS guided missiles; our military does. The vast majority of us are not trained in strategic warfare. That’s what we have our military for.
Second, I’ve heard it said that we own guns to prevent our government from “taking us over” in some way. First, the elected government is already the one in power. They don’t need to “conquer” Texas or any other state. Furthermore, if you actually believe that the citizens could win a war against our highly trained, well-equipped, much more capable military, you’re living in a dream world. Oh, you might take out a few, but they would take you out much more easily. I am reminded of the first Raiders of the Lost Ark movie in which a man jumps out and performs all sorts of menacing sword movements, and Indiana Jones casually takes out his pistol and shoots the man as if he's swatting a pesky mosquito. That's what we would be against any trained, well-equipped military: mosquitoes. And think about this: England has some of the free world's strictest gun laws, and I don't see the English military attacking their own citizens in an effort to take away their freedoms. And those gun laws have been that way for many years.
Third, many gun owners say they own guns for hunting. I’m no hunter myself, but I have no problem with your desire to enjoy that activity, provided you follow all laws regulating the pursuit. The last time I checked, however, the deer, birds, rabbits, squirrels, etc., are not armed with anything other than what Mother Nature gave them. Just owning a .22 caliber rifle would be enough to take down the smaller animals with ease, and a shotgun is enough to take down the larger game. Seriously, if you need an assault rifle to go hunting, I have to wonder what animals you think warrant such firepower. Do you think the deer are going to mount a counterattack?
Other gun owners say they own guns for personal safety. All well and good in my book. I understand. There are far too many people out there with mental disorders or personal vendettas who have legally purchased guns to do harm to others.
And that, of course, brings me to my point. We need laws that sensibly address the rampant problem of gun violence. Here are the suggestions I make, which are the full extent of what those of us making proposals have in mind.
1) We should enact laws that prevent people who have a history of mental illness or a criminal record from owning a gun. Believe me, everyone will be safer, including the most ardent gun lobbyists. Yes, there will be those who access them anyway, but at least we can try harder to prevent those who should not have guns from getting them. Not doing so is simply telling our children and fellow citizens, "Yes, we can do more, but as a matter of fact we don't care if you get shot in school, or in a movie theater, or at a concert, or. . . ."
2) We should enact laws that prevent people from owning any gun that is essentially meant for killing large numbers of people in a short amount of time. I’m talking about assault rifles here, such as those used in all of the mass shootings in our country. The average citizen does not need an assault rifle like the AR-15, especially a citizen mentally capable of killing others because he is angry and blames the world for his problems. And I’ve already explained why we are fooling ourselves if we fear our own government.
3) We should enact laws that limit the power of any lobbyist by limiting their ability to buy politicians. This requires Congress to pass sweeping campaign finance reforms. I know how difficult that will be. After all, many politicians get very rich on what is basically a “nice” income because of the money given to them by lobbyists and others seeking influence. The highest paid member of the House, the Speaker, makes a little over $220,000 a year. The highest paid Senator, the majority leader, makes a little over $190,000. As I said, nice pay, but it’s less than half the minimum pay for a player in the NFL ($455,000 in case you’re wondering). Yet, these men and women often go into office living a modest lifestyle but within a few years are enormously wealthy. Gee, I wonder how that happened?
You will notice there is no mention of “taking away” everyone’s guns in the three suggestions above. I don’t know a single person who is in favor of that—and I know a lot of people arguing for stricter gun laws—regardless of what the NRA is saying to scare you into believing all the liberals want to melt down your guns, or whatever equivalent garbage they are spouting these days. Allow me to tell you a secret the NRA does not want you to figure out: They spout this stuff so you'll give them money. Seriously. That's the gist of it. It's all about the greenbacks. After all, it takes a lot of money to own so many politicians.
Finally, I have a few pertinent question. Is your fear of changing laws relating to the second amendment really more important than our children's lives? Do you actually believe that passing sensible gun laws will lead to banning all guns? Have you been paying attention to how difficult it is to pass any gun laws?
So, there you have it. Enough is enough. I taught school for a long time, and it's time for such craziness to stop. Thanks for all the positive thoughts and prayers, but so far that hasn't worked, and we need more than that. We need reform, and we need it now. Yes, Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader McConnell, it IS the right time to talk about it.