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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.” – The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution
I wasn’t planning on going here so soon after sharing my thoughts on the First Amendment, but this week’s events are too horrible to ignore.
I received my first “real” gun when I was about 10. I was taught responsible, safe use of that .22 rifle and it stayed beside my bed while my parents went to work in the wee hours of the morning. I enjoyed target practice in the river behind our house. My dad would throw sticks upstream and I shot at them as they floated downstream. I learned an important lesson: moving targets are harder to hit. Thanks to a family friend with his gun dealer’s license I got to shoot a semi-automatic assault rifle and a Gatling gun before I turned 17. We weren’t a hunting family, but we were a gun-owning family. Respect for weapons was always first and foremost.
Now again this week, for the umpteenth time in recent memory (because who remembers these things going on practically every other day 30 or 40 years ago?), we’re facing yet another “worst mass shooting ever,” to which our politicians will give inappropriate lip-service and Americans will gorge themselves on the horror of it all for days to come.
To be honest, my knee-jerk reaction is “ban all the guns!” Logically, I know that’s another fool’s errand (we seem to have a lot of those these days). Besides the backlash that would trigger even more division in our already polarized country, “taking away the guns” is the equivalent of taking a kid’s toy away because he thwacked his playmate in the head with said toy. Taking the toy away doesn’t solve the problem. As any parent knows, the bratty kid will naturally find another toy to use as a weapon.
Fixing the bratty kid is a better solution, but in our current societal morass of angry, confused, self-righteous, fearful and willfully ignorant bratty adults, locating the bratty ones and helping them change their ways is a daunting, if not impossible, task.
I wish stricter gun control laws were the answer, and I think well-crafted restrictions might help, but a simple answer is rarely the solution to a complex problem. The strictest of parents often find that more rules don’t guarantee well-behaved children who toe the line and don’t do stupid things.
Unfortunately, to the ongoing dismay of our institutions, morality can’t be legislated. It’s too nebulous, too subjective. Real life trumps (no pun intended) a false morality defined by manmade rules and regulations. The answer, I believe, is multi-faceted. Restoring a sense of common decency, love, mercy and general respect for our fellow human beings is a part of the solution. Educating people is another part of the answer. Making treatment for mental illness widely available would help matters. Perhaps changing our widespread cultural acceptance of gratuitous violence on television, in movies and in our children’s video games is also part of the answer.
Washington isn’t going to fix the problem. No matter what they attempt, they’ll probably make it worse, because that’s what they do best. We are going to have to fix this, one at a time, starting with ourselves, our homes, workplaces, schools, churches and local governments. We have to change what we say and do, what we teach our children, what we morally and socially accept as “normal.” Change for the better isn’t going to come from the top down, it’s going to have to come from the bottom up.