Monday, January 21, 2013

Bullet to the Head

Re: "Hundreds of Gun Enthusiasts Flock to Augusta Show," Portland Press Herald, 01.20.2013 

I have never fired, handled or even touched a gun in my life—and I have no desire to anytime soon. I do not hunt. In the event I ever start a family of my own, I will forbid guns of any sort in my house. If that makes me an “irresponsible” citizen in the eyes of gun-rights advocates, so be it.

Even though I have lived in Maine all my life, I did not grow up around guns the way so many Mainers do. My parents did not own guns. My grandfather, who was an avid hunter, kept a small collection of rifles in his house, but they were always locked up in a display case. Even so, I remember being frightened by the guns when I would visit his house as a young boy. I understood, even at that young age, they were instruments of death. Perhaps it is because I live in the relative safety of Maine, but I have never felt the need to own a gun for “protection.”

What frustrates me most about the firearms debate is gun-rights defenders’ insistence that no amount of gun ownership laws will prevent gun deaths or school shootings. As Augusta gun show attendee, Bill Letellier tells the PPH regarding President Obama’s proposed gun ownership laws, “It’s not going to stop an insane person from doing something crazy.”

This attitude is a cop-out. Look, even the strictest gun ownership laws with the most diligent oversight will not prevent every single shooting from occurring. Such laws are not a panacea. But that does not mean we as a society should not do everything in our power to at least try to minimize the amount of gun deaths by making guns more difficult to obtain. To throw up your hands and claim “It’s a waste of time,” is not a solution to the problem. Incidentally, conservatives are guilty of the same defeatist attitude I accuse liberals of in my previous post. It goes to show a lack of moral conviction knows no ideological boundaries.

Furthermore, while I begrudgingly accept the Second Amendment as the constitutional law-of-the-land*, I wish Americans fought to preserve the beleaguered First and Fifth Amendments with nearly as much tenacity and intransigence.
*According to David Swanson’s book, Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (2009, Seven Stories Press), “The Second Amendment was written to protect Southern states’ right to use armed militias to enforce slavery… If we read the Second Amendment as providing an individual right to bear arms, it is important to notice that it makes no distinction between the right to bear arms to violently protect oneself and the right to bear arms to easily slaughter masses of people, or the fact that some types of arms are much better suited to the latter than the former” (207).     

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