Sunday, January 16, 2011
Second Amendment Remedies
This nation's founding father's were wise, but they weren't clairvoyant. A "well regulated Militia" in 1787, had more to do with keeping the old musket cleaned in case the Minutemen needed reassembly, than an individuals right to possess more firepower than a standing army. The framers' intention was to assure the rural populace that, in league with a regulated militia, they had the power to beat back an insurrection or invasion by force of arms. Not even Ben Franklin, however, could have foreseen a semi-automatic assault rifle in every closet, or statewide militia organizations that serve more to intimidate citizens than protect them. Certainly, the founders did not wish for a paranoid "Wild West" mentality to grip the entire country with regular occurrences of indiscriminate gun violence and murder. Yet, the Second Amendment has become the Rosetta Stone for conservatives, untouchable to modern interpretation, exploited by the NRA, and used as a shield for the explosion of gun sales during the past two years of the Obama presidency.
That's why the obscene violence visited upon the citizens of Tucson in recent days was a shock, but not a surprise. This country has become so accustomed to spree killings, the only news value is the body count, or, as in Arizona, the prominence of the victims. The documented mental condition of the Tuscon shooter demonstrated that lethal weapons are as easy to obtain as a Happy Meal, and if one Walmart won't sell you enough ammunition to fight off an army of Huns, just drive over to the next one and load up. We lurch from Columbine, to Virginia Tech, to Tucson without batting an eye, because the battle for reasonable gun regulation has been forfeited in the face of the firearms lobby. The National Rifle Association, by heavily "contributing" to the campaigns of sympathetic state and local officials, has successfully initiated a stealth campaign to eliminate any restrictions on where a gun can be taken. Consequently, the guy sitting next to you at Happy Hour, or in the public library, could be concealing a firearm. And there was hardly a scintilla of public debate before these insane notions were codified into law.
It can be expected for a goober like Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert to advocate carrying a weapon into a legislative chamber like the House of Representatives, but when Congressman Steve "Quick Draw" Cohen announces he'll start packing heat, it's a cause for concern. Not because Cohen is a bad shot or a pacifist with an occasional temper, but because we have come to this as a society. Who could blame Cohen after a major party's senatorial candidate suggests "second amendment remedies" to reign in government and some zipperhead in dysfunctional Arizona declares open-season on congressmen and their constituents? At Rep. Cohen's own Town Hall meeting during the Tea Party's "Summer of Hate," a few local zealots chose to wear holstered weapons like trendy fashion accessories and suddenly, there's a rash of nationwide amateur constitutionalists strapping on sidearms at public events as some sort of political statement. The romanticized gun culture reinforces their fantasies of repelling a home invasion or taking up arms against a tyrannical government and the Glock has become the most coveted household possession since the Salad Shooter.
The debate over regulating the sale of guns is over. The remaining question is how to keep weapons out of the hands of homicidal lunatics. For all the conservatives have done to champion gun rights, they certainly have liberal attitudes about who can obtain them. The GOP brags of being the party of "God, guns, and guts," only lately, it's other people's guts that are involved. One of the questions in a recent forum for candidates for Chairman of the Republican National Committee was, "How many guns do you own?" The greater the number of firearms claimed, the louder the applause from the audience. One candidate bragged of owning every manner of weapon except a surface-to-air missile. In this case, Michael Steele got out-gunned, while the Republican Party is just a few warlords short of resembling Afghanistan..
Politicians and pundits are quick to assign blame, but who can say what motivates these murderous freaks? A brutal popular culture that glorifies violence has surely contributed to our annual national gun carnage, but Canada has as many guns per capita as the U.S., and they watch the same movies and listen to the same music as we do. If their country-wide gun murders in a year equate to Chicago's in a month, it must be an issue of mental health, and we seem to be in the middle of a national nervous breakdown. Our political discourse may be vulgar and ballistic, but the Tucson shooter seems just another in an endless parade of the viciously insane. John Hinckley shot Ronald Reagan to impress Jodie Foster. Squeaky Fromme took a shot at Gerald Ford in order to be incarcerated with Charlie and the Mansons. These potential assassins cared more about fame than politics, yet they were able to wipe the drool off their chins just long enough to purchase a firearm. Who doesn't believe that another incident like the massacre in Tucson isn't looming somewhere already? This country's deranged individual arms race has made us one nation under the gun, and the casual, vending-machine nature of weapons sales has turned us into the land of the free to carry, and the home of the artificially brave. I don't think this is what the framers intended.