During the heat of last year’s presidential campaign, I made the mistake of engaging in a Facebook debate with a disciple of the Second Amendment.
“Surely,” I posted, “you would agree that it should be illegal for your neighbor to construct a nuclear weapon.”
“No,” he wrote back, “I wouldn’t agree with anything you snowflake liberals try to force down my throat.”
Then a dozen or so of his friends piled on, adding their epithets against me. At which point I realized, exactly one post too late on my part, that it was fruitless to pick arguments with religious fanatics.
There was one salutary aspect of that discussion, however; namely, that I began to observe numerous parallel issues in the daily news relating to the desire of our species to control powerful weapons. For example, both North Korea and Iran keep insisting on their sovereign right to develop a nuclear arsenal. Isn’t their desire for power similar in many ways to that of a gun nut who wants to own an assault weapon having an ammunition magazine the size of Texas?
Add to that the epidemic of mass killings, not to mention the number of shootings by police officers making arrests. Don’t all these political issues, both international and domestic, come down to a single set of questions?
- How much deadly force should anyone be allowed to control?
- When, if ever, is it permissible to use that deadly force to take the life of another human being?
Suffice it to say that extreme voices on the left and right tend to go too far in support of their unworkable beliefs. Those on the left who want to dismantle all police departments forget that uncontrolled gang violence is one of the principal reasons behind the exodus of so many refugees from Honduras. Eliminate the police and what you’re left with is subjection of the weakest to the biggest bully on the block. Those on the right who believe every American should own an assault weapon forget that thousands of innocent civilians are dying each year during mass shooting incidents. Eliminate reasonable regulation of firearms and what you’re left with is—guess what—subjection of the weakest to the biggest bully on the block.
Spirited Reasoners remember two key words in the Second Amendment: “well regulated.” The Second Amendment not only allows regulation, it encourages regulation. Why don’t we hear more talk about those two words in our Constitution?
Following are just a few examples of prudent regulation that might bring a sense of rationality to our current environment of lawless behavior:
- Treating gun ownership much like we treat the operation of motor vehicles; i. e., requiring training, testing, and licensure of every operator, along with the registration of every weapon.
- Holding gun owners responsible for crimes committed with the guns they purchase.
- Requiring background checks and waiting periods (aka “cooling off periods”) prior to purchase.
- Limiting magazine size and automatic firing capability to levels commensurate with the sport of hunting (as opposed to levels commensurate with the Battle of Stalingrad.)
- Increasing (rather than decreasing) police pay while also requiring every police officer to receive training in the scope of constitutional rights and the limited use of deadly force.
If Second Amendment advocates want to insist upon their right to form “militias,” then its time for the rest of us to insist on those two magic words—“well regulated”—to keep their dreams of dominance in check.
The whole point of civilization is to channel and tame destructive forces and to render it safe for every member of society to engage in the peaceful daily activities that lead to “domestic tranquility” (to cite another couple of words from the U. S. Constitution.)
It’s time to stop ceding the upper hand to those whose sense of self esteem is so low that they must each find and possess whatever powerful weapon they find necessary to prove their manhood.