It’s 3:17 a.m. early Wednesday morning, nine hours before deadline for this column and I haven’t 1,000 cohesive words anywhere in my head: not a scintilla of theme. This is not often the case when offering this column on a weekly basis (or is that weakly basis?), so without any real direction I’ll just offer up a few words on what has come my way via the media in the past few days.
Guns. Or to be more specific, the right to own guns. There is a topic sure to set emotions afire. The Constitution of the Unites States, a document that has undergone minute scrutiny since its inception, has a part within it, the Second Amendment, that addresses the issue of what laws Congress cannot pass regarding private ownership of guns. Arguments both pro and con regarding the amendment have been argued at the highest court in the land for a couple hundred years now. It’s a hot topic.
But as one who likes to delve into history and get a deeper understanding of the people, places and attitudes of times past, I have come to know more about what are referred to as our Founding Fathers; an apt name as all were men, but also a name that reveals an important aspect of that whole group of men who gave us the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And that is that they were sometimes disingenuous in their declarations and culturally shortsighted, both were regulated by the current norms of society. At that time in our history, much of the world held strong beliefs, which held back progress considerably.
The mindset at the time was that some humans were of lesser humanity and therefore could be used for purposes below the humanity of others. Black people were forced to this land and used much the same way work animals were used. Another mindset was that women were not intelligent enough humans to take part in any decision making other than that of the domestic.
The big names we honor — Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, Hamilton, et al. — were the best and brightest of that day and could not, in all their collective insights, see a day when humans of color and female humans would have equal place in society. And they were nearly correct, for many the battle for across-the-board equality rages on.
I am of the opinion (mark those words) that those astute gentlemen, knowing full well the need for self-defense of person and property and militia defense against a standing army, were sure that the Second Amendment would stand unchallenged regarding gun ownership. It only made sense. But I cannot believe any of those men ever envisioned a time when an individual person would want, or need, dozens, sometimes hundreds, of weapons in their home.
I doubt they imagined a time when vast numbers of the populace would kill their fellow Americans in almost any venue in the land; homes, streets, businesses, churches, schools. They understood weapons in use against fellow humans, they fought wars and in cases did what Aaron Burr did to Alexander Hamilton.
But could any writer of the Second Amendment imagine a day when shooters would be children shooting children? (Since the 1999 Columbine shooting, there have been over 300 school shootings.) Or imagine the bullet capacity or the rapid-fire capability of a modern gun and the obvious easy access to guns by vast segments of society? The ability of one human with a gun being able to kill 34 people at one time was not something any person living in America in 1781 would be able to comprehend.
And I think our Founding Fathers would be rather perplexed to find that the apparent continuation of this wanton slaughter of innocents is because elected lawmakers are reluctant to confront an association of gun owners whose lobby power is unmatched in society by any other organization.
I freely admit I am not averse to all guns. I have in my past done a fair amount of shooting and have no real argument against most hunting, as most the hunters I know are sportsmen and the animal killed is usually eaten. I have in my time taken a .22 or a shotgun and gone out and, as a long-ago roommate of mine would say, shot anything that would run, fly, swim or poop (paraphrase). And there was a time when for three years I could avail myself once a month to a shooting range, free of charge, and shoot with pistol, rifle and shotgun from three positions, from behind barricades, using both hands and on the run.
That said, I still think there are way too many guns available to way too many people in this country. And I am sure most of the hunters and gun owners I know are as sickened by the many killings that guns bring about as the next person; but I wish they would be more vocal about it to the powerful gun lobby. One can belong to an organization and still not hold all of its tenets as sacred.
Now, the reason for the above words is because this past weekend I was for awhile surrounded by young faces, dozens of them, and when I think about students, very recently, who just went to school like a normal day and soon heard gunshots and then were being yelled at by armed police to run, hands above your heads, leave your backpacks, run; and as they ran down once-safe corridors they pass the body of a student, a teacher, another student. I would not want that for any of those faces I know.
And for those who say, “It can’t happen here,” I would direct them to a pockmark on the lower step of the school building we were in this weekend and remind them the bullet struck when the building was occupied.
Take care. Peace.