Notwithstanding these facts, I hold equally strong feelings on the critical importance of sound reasoning in one’s approach to any serious issue of our times. In particular, it essential that as a diverse society, we must understand how important it is not only to solve this critical problem, but if the problem is to be solved, we must rise above our emotions – and through the mindful application of reason – find solutions that can vastly reduce the number and extent of these tragedies. The term “reduce” is deliberately used as if we are to find real solutions, we must begin by recognizing the terribly unhappy truth that, in problems of this nature, in any society as massive and complex as ours, there are no absolute solutions. In short, the realization of practical answers to the problem of gun violence will be found only in the “mitigation of means, motive and opportunity”.
Let us start with the question of “means”. It is an absolute truth that the Second Amendment clearly states that, “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”. And yet, while this statement is a civil right which is both crystal clear and fixed in law, it too must be subject to the demands of “reason”. For example, it has been publicly argued, and quite accurately so, that the writers of that Amendment, in their wildest imaginings, could never have conceived of a firearm capable of issuing five individual rounds of shot in a single second, nor of a gun, with such a rate of fire, which could be discharged fifty times or more, before reloading. Weapons of such capability, in truth, were created for no other purpose than a battlefield – and not for use in a peacetime, civil environment. So then, should they be banned from existence in our modern society? From a purely emotional point of view, the extreme gun-advocate would say “no”, while those who demand an absolute sense of “public safety” would say “yes”. The writer, however, by applying the yardstick of reason, suggests that to ban such weapons would simply drive their dissemination underground.
Consider the resolution of this issue in comparison to another modern device which could be almost equally capable of mass death and carnage – the automobile. Since the car is so critical a part of our daily lives, both facets of its nature are dealt with by meticulous regulation, taxation and licensing. At the present time, for example, the owners of machine guns, in the United States, are subject to licensing by the Federal Government, and must fork up a Federal license fee of $200.00. Has such a law driven machine guns out of the hands of all Americans?
No. But since 1934, when this regulation came into effect, I think that you could probably count on your fingers, the number of public outrages which have occurred in the United States over that span of time, using such weapons. The machine gun, of course, is a fully automatic weapon – a thoroughly “modern” weapon – which (because of its lethal nature) the Supreme Court has already judged to be subject to Federal licensing control. In the question of “means”, therefore, there is no reason why Congress should not bring “specified varieties” of semi-automatic weapons, and high-capacity clips, under similar levels of control, through the Federal department of Alcohol, Tobacco and firearms.
Now, on the issue of “opportunity”, we must again view the ultimate protection of a citizen’s right to bear arms, not from the point of view of emotion, but under the focused light of reason. Beyond question, the right to bear arms is fixed in law as a protection of civil liberty. Again, it is a liberty with the potential for death-dealing capability. As such it has reasonably been judged to be a device which must be kept from the hands of both villains and incompetents – enforced through the means of background checks and a waiting period before purchase. At the same time, what purpose does our system of background checks serve, when any criminal, terrorist or screwball can buy as many guns as he wants, without the requirement for such a check, at any gun show or through the internet? A loophole you could drive a truck though!
In short, as dictated by the demands of reason, the gun-show/internet loophole must be closed – by Congress, and as soon as possible. Yet even with that added constraint, the ultimate loophole still remains – the inevitable transfer of firearms from one private citizen to another. Once again, reason dictates that we may one day need to apply the ultimate resolution – the Federal licensing of certain specified varieties of handguns, at least. At this suggestion, I can hear in the offing, the emotional shrieks of anguish for the absolutists, “If the government knows where all the handguns are, and who has them, they will descend upon us like a swarm of locust and take our guns away!” On the face of it, this argument is nothing less than ludicrous. The Second Amendment to the Constitution would continue to stand, and the only way that our administrators of government could get around it is the same way they got around Prohibition, (the 18 Amendment) – by repeal through passage of yet another Amendment. For the sake of those who don’t realize it, the passage of a Constitutional Amendment requires a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress, the signature of the President, and then ratification by three- fourths of all of our State Legislatures! In short – that ain’t gonna happen.
Still on the issue of “opportunity” – the Newtown catastrophe, and the many similar events in our recent past, has demonstrated that in a society of 300 million souls, there are so many individuals of unstable nature, that it’s an actual astonishment that these events do not occur at weekly intervals. In light of this reality, we are forced to recognize certain realities. First, the number of psychologically unstable people, in so vast a population, demands that we finally come to recognize the true nature of their potential threat to the rest of society. In other words, to assist at mitigating these kinds of disasters, we’d better finally recognize the urgent need for a serious expansion of our mental health facilities. As an issue of public safety, we must immediately increase public access to mental health services – whether or not those who are in such need, can afford it.
Finally, fully recognizing that neither our public mental health nor gun-control issues are likely to be effectively resolved in the near future, we must at once yield to the realization that “security” in public schools, and other public facilities as well, must become as major consideration in the design and layout of such institutions, as it has already been employed in many courtrooms and other government offices.
As always, I would love to hear you think, and how we can work together to make our society safer and stronger.
Photo from telegraph.co.uk – http://bit.ly/U5wC9G