Alas, too much of our discussion of gun rights these days starts and ends from a primitive understanding of the relationship between the Constitution’s statements about our rights and the real-world applications of those rights.
Put simply, the Constitution is almost always direct and simple. Amendment 1, for example, says ”Congress shall make no law” limiting speech, or imposing religion, or interfering with your practice of religion, or limiting the press. What could be clearer? “No law” means “NO LAW,” right?
But practice is always murkier. Thus, while I have freedom of speech, we all know I can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater (when no fire is present). Likewise, if I oppose scientific medicine on religious grounds, I have the religious freedom to refuse to go to the doctor. However, the law says I have to take my son to the doctor regardless of my beliefs. And of course I have the right to assemble peaceably to petition government for redress of grievances, but I can’t block traffic just because I want to. No right is absolute and inviolable regardless of circumstance or context.
But not, according to the gun nuts, the second amendment. The gun wackos quote the second amendment—which has a limiting amendatory preface that the first amendment lacks—as if it is gospel. No limitation of any kind can be accepted … because the Constitution says so! The Second Amendment, then, is special, different: the one that is not subject to any kind of real world analysis or compromise.
It’s analytically primitive twaddle, but it drives our discourse about guns in America. We are the worse for it.
Gun control is currently taking over the airwaves, news websites, and blogosphere. As it trends up, the backlash is already forming. Many blogs and news outlets have already condemned the spike in gun control conversations to shameless people using one of the worst shootings in American history to push a political viewpoint. Unforgivable, shameless, awful, they say.
That’s ridiculous. The massive surge in the gun control debate is notbecause people are trying to use a national tragedy to push their own political agenda. It is a natural, national reaction to an overwhelming tragedy.
The truth of the matter is that I, sitting at my desk 3000 miles away, am completely powerless to assuage the awful tragedy of this Connecticut shooting. I am angry, I am upset, and there is nothing I can do. Everyone feels this way right now. They feel the need to turn that anger and helplessness into some sort of action. “Something needs to be done,” someone thinks, “to make sure this never happens again”. And what does the blogosphere/hivemind/national consciousness turn to, in all its impotent anger and rage? Gun control, naturally.
For the record, I don’t think this is a bad thing.
The Gospel according to Fluff Logic.
Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
Nope. A gun is designed to fire ammunition at a target. That is all it does. A person can live, laugh, cry, reproduce… many, many things.
It’s not just guns that kill people
A knife can cut and prepare vegetables to eat. It can cut back nuisance plants. It can be a survival tool. A gun, again, fires ammunition at its target. Its sole purpose is that. You don’t get guns designed to do other things.
If more people were armed this would not happen
No. Wrong. I assure you, in a situation where a gunman opens fire, armed people die just as much as unarmed people. Look at the barracks shootings that happened while armies were training police in Iraq. How many of those armed people firing at armed people got shot?
But the second amendment says
The second amendment says the right to bear arms as part of a militia. It is meant as a defence against armed invaders, like the home guard in the UK during World War II. It is not the right to go out and buy an M16 because guns damnit.
This isn’t the time to talk about gun control
When is then? When people forget? While parents bury children, at Christmas? When is it convenient to talk about “we should stop buying machines for murder”? There is no such time. Quit wasting everybody’s time with this lame duck.
It’s my right to carry a gun
It’s not, and never was. See second amendment, above.