Gun Control

In light of the ongoing discussion about gun control, and the likelihood that this Congress will almost certainly not come up with tougher gun laws which so many people clearly want, we might reflect on the recent shooting death of a deputy’s wife by a four-year old child who discharged the officer’s gun by mistake, as reported by USA Today. It raises serious questions about the veracity of the NRA mantra  “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  But whether we agree with the NRA or not, it seems unlikely that the fourteen people stabbed in a Houston (TX) Junior College yesterday would still be alive if they had been shot by an automatic weapon like the one used in Sandy Hook. Be that as it may, those who are fighting for tougher gun restrictions are fighting with one hand (both?) tied behind their backs: the NRA doesn’t seem to be the least bit worried, as a recent Yahoo News story reveals:

Most Americans support tougher gun control measures. Too bad the gun lobby has so many politicians in its pocket

There’s no denying it: The National Rifle Association has won — again. Even though more than 3,000 Americans have died via gun violence since 20 children and 6 adults were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary in December, the NRA has somehow managed to triumph. The victims’ families and gun control advocates have lost. Forget an assault weapons ban — or any other serious gun regulation. It’s not happening.

The apparent failure of this Congress to make any serious inroads against the powerful NRA lobby is disturbing on both of two grounds, moral and historical. On moral grounds it is simply wrong to continue to make available to ordinary citizens automatic weapons that are designed to kill other human beings. On historical grounds, the issue is also quite clear. We need to recall the exact wording of the second amendment to our Constitution which  states that “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 have blogged about this before, but we need to bear in mind that this is what logicians call a “conditional” sentence. It was written very carefully by James Madison who, along with Thomas Jefferson, worried more about a standing army then they did about the right to bear arms. In fact, the statement says that in order to assure ourselves of the continued readiness of a militia that will render unnecessary a standing army, we must guarantee every citizen the right to bear arms. The issue of a standing army was paramount.

Long after the Constitution was ratified and while the young nation was struggling with the prospect of a return to monarchy under the Presidency of John Adams, with the urging of Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson wrote the following letter expressing in no uncertain terms just what his concerns were:

“I am for relying on our militia solely, till actual invasion, and for such naval force only as may protect our coasts and harbors from such depredations as we have experienced; and not for a standing army in time of peace, which may overawe the public sentiment; nor for a navy, which by its own expenses and the eternal wars in which it will implicate us, will grind us with public burdens, and sink us under them.”

It is because those men feared a standing army (and navy) making it necessary for every citizen to be ready to defend the nation if it ever again came under attack that they wrote the second amendment to the Constitution. Those who have no problems with a four-year old child accidentally shooting a woman dead in her own home, or a maniac walking into a school and shooting 20 young children, or walking into a movie theater and shooting anyone who moved, should ponder the rationale behind the amendment they hold aloft and hide fearfully behind: that amendment was not designed to protect our alleged right to carry automatic weapons and shoot our fellow citizens. It was designed to guarantee that there would never be a standing army.

The history lesson is quite clear, as are the moral grounds for disallowing weapons that are designed only to kill other humans. But the politicians who should be listening have their hands in the pockets of the gun lobby and their heads up their butts, which, I suppose, makes it hard for them to hear much of anything.


11 thoughts on “Gun Control

  1. You NEED gun control. That four year old is proof. But by the same token, how did the four year old get hold of the gun? And why was it loaded in the house?

    • Good questions: the deputy was “showing off” his guns and left a couple lying around. The child came into the room, picked up one of the guns and accidentally shot the deputy’s wife. Why the gun was loaded I cannot say — except for the old maxim “there’s a fool born every minute.”


  2. Hugh, we cannot outlaw stupidity, which is the reason we need gun laws as well as a few others. This is a good post and example. I learned that my NC Senator Burr (whom I voted for and have written twice about gun control) may be part of the fillibuster. I said if you do, then you have lost my vote. Please email or call your senators and congress people.

  3. Oh they hear something all right…ka ching. Ka ching. Ka ching. Thoughtful Dr. Hugh…there is, however, just so much foolishness (and twisted thinking) on this issue that it is hard to even view it as a debate and even harder to know how to encourage reasonable discourse. I mean what does one do with the arguments that the answer to Newtown is to arm elementary school teachers? How is it not possible to note that our world (and our weapons) are modestly (!) different from the time of Madison, or that our Constitution is, should be, indeed must be,a living document, or that…aughhhhhh. I have hope…small steps perhaps…but I have hope that sanity might percolate up even in today’s toxic environment.

  4. You hit upon the key point at the end. Essentially, follow the money. The politicians and the NRA just don’t care what the citizens want, only what the lobbyists want, lobbyists who represent the manufacturers.

  5. I e-mailed my three federal elected officials after the Connecticut shootings — Sens. Harkin, D, and Grassley, R, and Rep. Steve King, R. Got pretty much thanks for writing, but no way are we toughening gun law replies from Grassley and King. Harkin at least acknowledged something had to change, but did little more. Iowa’s a tough state to take a firm stand on gun control, because of the hunting. But what happened in Connecticut has little to do with hunting.

    Like you, Hugh, each time I saw news of the Texas college stabbing on TV yesterday, I thought immediately of a comparison with Newtown: as unfortunate as it was, no one died.

    Compare yesterday’s Texas stabbings to Newtown and try to say that “guns don’t kill people, people do,” and you’ll sound like the biggest fool since Malvolio. Both perpetrators had the same intent. The one with the knife killed no one. The one with the guns killed 26.

  6. I suspect that the pro/con argument in social circles is the same worldwide. I’ve certainly witnessed my share of pro/con arguments in Latin America concerning this issue. I fear that it’s like trying to tell an alcoholic that he/she needs to stop drinking, or it’s like asking an atheist to believe in God. It’s going to take a Come-to-Jesus event that triggers a change in attitude. Sandy Hook was one of those moments, unfortunately. At least it’s planted the seed of thought, and maybe in time more people will stand up and speak out.

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