February 5, 2013

PUBLIC FORUM: Taking on the issue of gun control

— The beauty of our constitution and representative democracy is that they are not static, never-changing entities but have a built in fluidity that allows for refinements in our laws as our society has grown and evolved. While I am often frustrated with the slowness we as a group have come to embrace certain liberties, this is usually a reflection of the societal mores of the time and history has shown that our great nation eventually champions the side of freedom.

Though it should be noted even constitutionally guaranteed rights are not completely unfettered and limitations or regulations are often prescribed to them by our government, not always, but usually in the name of safety.

Which brings us to the hot button issue of guns. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, concerning the 2nd Amendment making membership in “a well regulated militia” irrelevant and emphasizing an individuals right to own a gun, it has been a certainty that responsible citizens would be allowed to bear arms.

As the number of victims of gun violence grow and mass shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook Elementary outrage the nation, the question of how to prevent these tragedies has been raised with a new urgency. Some of the rhetoric from both sides has been predictable but the strident nature of those who are for gun ownership with few, if any, restriction has made the suggestions made by those on the gun control side seem measured and reasonable by contrast.

So far, I’ve learned two things that I did not understand before all this heated up. The first being that Wayne Lapierre and the leadership of the NRA have shown themselves to be more beholden to firearm and ammunition manufacturers than their own membership. Which stands to reason if, as always, you follow the money. This once fiercely independent organization earns more of their millions of dollars from corporate gun interests than the yearly dues they collect.

The other is the main argument of those who want the most powerful of weapon systems and ammunition. They seem to feel they need them as a defense against our own government. If our populace continues to elect lawmakers comfortable with these citizens owning armaments capable of engaging our own local, state, and federal police on an equal footing, then so be it.

However, a word of caution to those who are gun absolutists. Beware the moral outrage of the families harmed by these shootings. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving was given life in a grieving mother’s den in 1980. Behavior that was once met with a wink and a nod by our courts and legislators has today become a societal taboo with very strong legal consequences thanks to the outrage and political pressure brought by MADD. If you make this an all or nothing struggle, it might take decades but nothing is what you might end up with.  

Ernest Bowman