Despite the fact that I am a social and spiritual liberal, I have always been opposed to gun control. It seemed to me that one couldn’t be a consistent supporter of human rights and be opposed to the Bill of Rights, even when some of the ideas in it seemed dubious. I understood the concern of the framers of the Constitution. They had just come out of colonialism, defeated the British Empire, and they had done so with the muskets they owned and used to hunt and protect their families. These were powder and ball weapons that fired one shot at a time and required time to reload. There was never any such thing as a semi-automatic, much less fully automatic, musket. If you were going to commit mass murder with a musket, you would pretty much have to be killing people either physically unable or too stupid to run away or come take your weapon from you as you attempted to reload. Scarface would not have done well with a musket.
The so-called Batman shootings in Aurora, CO, and now the Sikh Temple shootings in Oak Creek have changed my mind.
I have changed my mind because the Constitutional argument no longer makes sense. What’s more, I am not sure that the framers would have written the Second Amendment as they did had they been able to see the weapons of the future. Anyone who believes their semi-automatic handgun collection, together with their hunting rifles, will be able to fend off the military of their country should it become oppressive is inhabiting a very different reality than the one I inhabit. Just who will you resist, Dirty Harry, even if your handgun is the most powerful in the world? One well-trained soldier? Probably not. An Apache helicopter? Please! One fighter jet? Come on, really, I am laughing so hard that it hurts.
Perhaps you’re planning on ending violence in your city with your gun. Interesting. You do realize, of course, that the police have more and bigger guns than yours and haven’t been able to end violence, don’t you? Maybe you are afraid to go out because of all the crime your city. I understand, really I do. What you need to understand is that when someone gets the drop on you on the street they are about as likely to give you time to draw your gun as they would give you time to load your musket. You would be much better served to learn some basic self-defense and then learn how to react calmly to any situation. For that, I would recommend meditation, which allows us to slow down events as they unfold and make wise decisions. I spend several days a month in the worst neighborhoods in the City of Milwaukee and I don’t take a weapon. I certainly have been threatened, but never harmed because I can remain calm and calm people don’t cause other people to escalate. Am I in danger? Sure, but we all are in danger everyday from everything from traffic accidents to a terminal diagnosis.
My point is that we quite simply need to cut off the supply lines of weapons to the street. Right now, if someone can’t buy one they can break into your home and steal yours. I am realistic enough to say that banning handguns won’t change anything overnight. It will be a big step in the right direction. You can keep your shotguns and hunting rifles – they are hard to conceal. As it stands right now, we need to understand – really understand, not just in a hypothetical way – that we are all responsible for those shootings. Our responsibility extends way beyond guns, but gun control is a concrete first step we can take to reduce the number of tragedies our children will have to face.