Monday, April 23, 2007

VT

The Virginia Tech tragedy has obviously been all over the news since it happened last Monday, and with good reason. What happened there was utterly unbelievable and terrifying, and there aren't really any words to describe what the families of the dead must be feeling.

But of course what happened has been turned into a gun control debate. Those on one side see it as a way to justify stricter gun control, and those on the other side think that with more guns, the problem will be solved. They believe that if any of the students on the campus had been allowed to carry a gun (basically the only place you can't carry one in the state of Virginia is on a school campus), then the shootings would have ended sooner.

And, look, that's probably true. If the laws were different and students were allowed to carry guns, one of them might have been able to get a fatal shot on the killer before he continued his rampage. Maybe we would be talking about heroism more than tragedy today if more guns were present.

But as long as we're playing "what if?" we have to look at the flip-side of that coin. And that is this--if Cho hadn't been able to get guns at all, then he wouldn't have been able to kill 32 people with those guns. It would have been a lot more difficult for him to attempt a mass murder with just a knife or, hell, even a bow and arrow. Guns are the only weapon that would have facilitated such a rash of killings, and luckily for Cho, it was pretty easy for him to get a couple in Virginia.

I am a liberal, which you know, so the party platform states that I should be against the NRA's interpretation of the second amendment. But I try to look at these things as objectively as I can. And in order to understand the Constitution, I think all we really need to do is understand what was going on while it was being written.

We had just finished a fucking revolution against an enemy across an ocean. We had freed ourselves from the perceived tyranny of King George, and we had created an independent nation. So, foremost on the founding fathers' minds would have obviously been protecting those freedoms for which so many had just died. They based the first ten amendments directly on the Bill of Rights, which was the basic outline for what we wanted in this country. So, it was a pretty important list, and therefore was also included in the Constitution.

Each of the first ten amendments is pretty obviously linked directly to the rights that the early Americans felt the English monarchy had taken away from them. Each, that is, except for the second amendment. In the Bill of Rights, they included free speech and due processs. They made it illegal to quarter soldiers in citizens' homes. They were worried about self-incrimination in a court of law. All of these issues were first and foremost on their minds because they had been denied those rights by the British.

But they were never denied the right to bear arms. So why is it the lone duck among the first ten? Because the Continental Congress wasn't worried about the British, or even the new American government, taking away their guns. They were worried about another war. This was a newly formed nation, forged by fighting the strongest empire in the world. It is not unreasonable to suspect that they were a little wary of their sudden freedom.

There was no radar in the late 18th century. There were also no phones, computers, internet, or even a damn telegraph or telephone. Communication was done in writing (by hand), which then had to be carried. And the fastest means of transportation, at least on land, was by horse. So it wasn't really that fast. Paul Revere was forced to jump on his horse and yell to the people that the British were coming. Diplomacy would have been slow, of course, and so wars were fought with guns until someone gave in. News of treaties, peace, or even surrender took forever to reach the front lines, hence the famous Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, which was fought after both sides had already agreed to peace.

The point is, people didn't have a lot of warning about bad (or good) events that were coming their way. As a result, they understandably felt the need to have protection for themselves ready and available. And so they had guns.

You know why else they had guns? Because back then, McDonald's didn't exist. Neither did Ralph's or Winn Dixie or Albertsons, or whatever grocery store is in your part of the world. People got their food by hunting for it. And guns were pretty effective at killing prey. People didn't starve to death, because they had guns. That's totally fine. But when was the last time you heard about people in this country starving to death because of their lack of ability to hunt and gather? People spend a great deal of time hunting, and many of them use all parts of the animal, but do they ever really need to? Is it ever a necessity that they have their semi-automatic weapon to kill an elk? Or could they just go spend a few bucks at the store and feed their families that way?

Here is the text of the second amendment: "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."

People on my side of the debate focus on "a well regulated militia," and with good reason. As far as I'm concerned, that means an army. That means a regulated force whose sole purpose is to protect the citizens for whom it works. It does not mean the average man in his suburban home has the right to own fifty handguns and a few assault rifles. It does not mean that teenagers should be able to easily access guns which they then use to massacre students at high school.

Guns have no other purpose than to kill. We ban marijuana, a drug that kills no one, and yet we put up a fight when someone says that maybe we don't all need AK-47s. People have made the argument that many murders occur with knives and other weapons. True. But knives serve another purpose, which is to cut food or rope or whatever. What other use does one have for a gun? You can't chop onions with it. You buy it and use it with the intent to harm. Sometimes in self-defense, to be sure, but the easy access to guns in this country makes it all the more likely that those without good intentions will find their way to these deadly weapons.

As far as I'm concerned, there should be no guns. And that will never be the case because the NRA is one powerful lobby. Even though they're crazy. If they want to hunt, they should have to check guns out of a locker in a shop somewhere, and return them later. And those won't be handguns. Nor will they semi-automatic. If they really want me to believe that food is the main reason they need a weapon, then they can use a rifle. Or, if I had it my way, they would all be using Revolutionary War era muskets.

And for those who claim the need for weapons in case of self-defense, well, you won't be needing to defend with a gun so much if the other guy doesn't have one, right? In any case, you gun rights activists always claim that you practice safety first. To me, that means keeping your guns locked away. After all, children always find them, even if you think they don't know where they are. So, in the event a threat occurs in your home and you have to react quickly, how would you even get to your gun cabinet anyway? And if you want to tell me that you keep a gun under your pillow, then you're not really thinking "safety first," are you? And that would make you a hypocrite. Shocking.

Guns do not serve a purpose in a modern society. Mankind destroys one another everyday more and more, and I don't see a reason for our government to allow it to continue between our own citizens. Gun deaths are always on the rise, and how many times do you hear about guns being used in self-defense? I don't have the statistics in front of me, but I'd be willing to bet that the numbers on that one are negligible when compared to the murders and accidents using guns that occur everyday in this country.

Get rid of guns. If your only argument is the second amendment, you have no leg to stand on, so give up the ghost. If you care about your country enough to quote the Constitution everyday, however incorrectly, then care about it enough to actually keep its citizens from harm.

1 comment:

Sooze said...

You are so hired as my fact-checker.