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.
In the last few days, I’ve allowed myself to become a party to no less than three heated bar stool discussions concerning the current national debate over the Second Amendment, and the potential impact by way of regulatory legislation on our rather well-armed citizenry–I myself being among our gun-toting populace. As usual those on both sides of the argument are armed with their statistics, perceived truths and enough claims to the moral high ground that it might appear to the average detached American that both sides are right. And to some degree both sides are in fact justified in wanting to cling to their much cherished positions on the matter. Because the national discourse of the moment reflects some of the very concerns expressed by the framers of The Bill of Rights in 1789.
Concerning the Second Amendment, there were those founders who felt that the only way to insure the future freedom and security of the new nation against the possible tyranny of government, be it foreign or domestic, was to make sure that a citizen’s right to own and carry arms was enshrined in the Constitution. But there were also those equally wise and well-educated men of the time that were fearful of the potential mayhem, mob rule and anarchy posed by arming a civilian population. So like those much revered fellows of the eighteenth century, we find ourselves once again bringing our own exaggerated personal fears in regard to the proper and legal role of the gun in American life.
There are those who live in fear of that armed threat lurking in the shadows that wants to take away their lives. And there are those that live in fear of that threat lurking in the legislature that wants to take away their arms. But for better or for worse, we have as much of a right to our fears, no matter how unfounded, as we have to our rights concerning firearms and freedom of speech. So perhaps we would be better off if both the gun advocates and the gun control people admitted that their passions are more likely fueled by fear than by actual facts. And at this particular juncture in our nation’s history we might consider a respectful dialogue in lieu of demonizing those with an opposing point of view.
My own personal instincts on the issue tend to put me in league with those that believe that additional laws banning the use of certain types of weapons will do little to stop the type of carnage recently experienced in Newtown, Connecticut. On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman killed 14 people and wounded 32 others at the University of Texas in Austin, using only a shotgun, an M1 carbine and a couple of standard hunting rifles. On the other hand though, if some of the measures being suggested today, such as using mental health records as part of an overall background check were in effect at the time, that tragic event may have been avoided. Charles Whitman purchased weapons at two separate locations on the day of the shootings. Months earlier he had sought out both medical and psychiatric help, expressing concerns about trying to cope with the suppression of his extreme violent impulses.
Lastly, the term well regulated was apparently key in the penning of the Second Amendment. And even though the case can be made that rules and regulations don’t necessarily change behavior, it is those decrees coupled to the force of law that says who we are as a society. We the people might want to consider foregoing a few of our own fears in the interest of domestic tranquility, and the possibility of actually achieving that more perfect union.
Posted by: Chris Poh