Monday, May 8, 2023

It's The Guns

Once louder for those in the back, and for those who are intentionally refusing to listen...


When, when can we admit that the guns have at least some part to play in the continued rise in deaths from gun violence.  Are we that far gone?

This is tough to write, as the topic continues to make me want to swear or be uncharitable.  My anger over our inability to act continues to rise with each and every event.  Particularly following the ridiculously predictable response we get every single time.  Even down to being able to write the tweets our leadership will share.

Saturday afternoon, May 6, 2023, a gunman opened fire at an outlet mall in Allen, Texas, murdering eight people and injuring seven.  The victims range in age from 5 years old to 61 years old.  The attacker was killed by the police.

There have been 199 mass shootings in the country since the beginning of the year.  This is the second most deadly shooting this year.

And just like always, we see the same response.  Thoughts and prayers.  It's not the guns, it's mental health.  We can't do anything about the guns.  

Blah, blah, blah.

All such drivel.

First, I don't want to diminish thoughts and prayers.  They are powerful.  Prayer can move mountains, truly.  I can point to the times of my life where I have been prayed through.  Where I only survived because of the prayers of others.

But we belittle the very purpose and power of prayer when we make it the very least we can do and leave it there.  When we leave it as a simple bon mot response.  If we do nothing else, the faith behind those prayers is dead.  Our faith should be compelling us to some kind of change to make this stop.

And second, I'd believe the line about mental health being a genuine attempt to affect change if the people making that statement weren't also the people voting down every attempt to improve our mental health system in this country.  It's almost as if they know mental health alone is not the solution and they are just looking to deflect.

At some point, and who knows when, we have to be honest and admit that the guns are part of the problem.  

To admit that we, as a country, have a problem with guns.

Specifically, that we have an addiction.

We're addicted to guns.

It's the definition of an addiction, right.  I'm mean, when you propose that the solution involves more of the problem, that's an addiction.  We'll solve gun violence with more guns?  Just like I can solve my overeating with more cake?

We're addicted to guns and we're butchering the Second Amendment to foster that addiction.

Let’s start by clarifying what the Second Amendment actually says. It does not just state “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The full Second Amendment reads “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.” This is important because the “well regulated Militia” and “necessary to the security of a free State” are so often ignored, when they are so closely tied to the right in the text itself.

That's because, prior to 2008, the Second Amendment was not recognized as a personal right to bear arms protected by the Constitution.  The Constitutional Second Amendment, prior to 2008, tied the right to keep and bear arms into the well-regulated militia, making the right a collective right of the people to organize into militias and protect themselves in that fashion.  The individual right existed for the benefit of the collective, not the other way around.  Further, there was not a right to organize private militias (i.e. groups of people creating a militia for their own purposes), militias were intended to be individual state militias (i.e. the Texas militia, the Louisiana militia, etc.) which could provide for a state’s defense and protect an individual state from a tyrannical federal government.  The Second Amendment was not recognized as a codification of a common-law right to self-defense.  We did not start treating it as such until the 2008 District of Columbia v Heller Supreme Court case, in which the court determined that the Second Amendment did recognize a personal right.  This means that up to 2008, when looking at whether the Second Amendment had been infringed, courts did not look at whether any one person’s right to protect themselves had been impaired.  They looked at the restriction on the weapon under the context of a state militia.  Conceivably, the Court in the future could overrule Heller and determine that the right to bear arms is inextricably tied to the well-regulated militia.  That's the way it worked for Roe v Wade.

Even if the right continues to be a personal right, like most other rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited.  To have a functioning society, we have agreed that there are certain limitations that can be placed on nearly all of the rights we have enumerated in the Bill of Rights.  Your right to free speech cannot be used to yell “fire” in a public theater.  Your right to free press cannot be used to commit libel.  Your right to the free exercise of religion does not include human sacrifice.  Likewise, the government can put certain limitations on the right to keep and bear arms; it has always been in the government’s power to do so.  Most often these restrictions occur when one person’s right to keep and bear arms runs up against another person’s rights.  We see examples of this with gun-free school zones, prohibitions on fully automatic weapons, background check requirements.  Semi-automatic weapons seem to be the cause of a lot of current discussion and it’s important to note that they were themselves part of heavy restriction from 1994 to 2004, so there is definitely precedence for government action in this area.  It would not be that great of a stretch for the government to reinstate a more effective version of this ban (with fewer loopholes) in the future.  And there is large scale support for such a measure in this country currently.

We just have the willpower to actually make a change.

If we did, we might discover the impact guns have on us goes way beyond the mass shootings that really bring the issue to our attention. We need to explore the impact of mass homicide, on domestic homicide, and on suicide.  On accidental gun violence.  

Additionally, it's important to note this isn't a zero sum game.  We do not have to do only one thing.  It's far past time we put everything on the table.  We should be looking at mental health care.  We should be looking at bullying.  We should be looking at the family structure.  We should be looking at socio-economic status and mobility.  AND we should be looking at sensible gun control.  We're a big country and pretty good at multi-tasking.  We're more than capable of looking at it all.  

But we should be at the bare minimum doing something
It’s way past time to do so.

I'm just not hopeful we will.   I think I gave up hope after Sandy Hook.  Once that shooting and then Uvalde happened and we did nothing, once we saw it at an elementary school and did nothing, we've just accepted it as a cost of life in the United States.  We've accepted that the number one cause of death of American children and teens is just going to be firearms.

The really sad thing is, we know what would actually work.  We know what steps we should take with gun control.  We know what steps for gun control have popular support.

The first step, is admitting we have a problem.

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