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Tragedy in New England

December 15, 2012

Today was a beautiful day in New England. I drove down to the farm, as I so often do on Saturdays. I admired the clear blue sky and deep blue of the ocean highlighted by the white caps that accompany steady North winds such as we had today. I spent a bit of time cleaning up my shop and prepared to go out into the woods where, for a brief while each week I can pretend it is an earlier time. In my woolen clothes, carrying my ash splint backpack, loaded with my axe, hatchet, and saw, I can play at being an eighteenth or nineteenth century woodsman. Sadly, thoughts of the twenty-first century insistently intruded on my fantasy. Yesterday, also in New England, parents lined up outside a school and waited to see whether their child would come out alive. Twenty children did not. Great big bloody holes were blasted through their tiny bodies and through the lives and psyches of their families and those of their classmates. This contrast between the horror of the news and the peace and quiet of my imagined sojourn to the past got me to thinking about the gun control debate.
All scholars of and believers in sacred texts hold the original meaning of their texts in the highest regard. Whether studying the Bible, Torah, Koran, or the US Constitution, true believers view their documents as infallible and sacrosanct. Certainly several members of the Supreme Court feel this way about more than one of these documents. So, let us crawl into the heads of those gentlemen of the newly American landed gentry and try to imagine the frame of mind of the Framers. They have all lived under a despot, in fact some have even offered their leader, George Washington, the chance to be the King of the United States. Some say some pretty fiery stuff. Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be watered with blood” or some such thing. (Of course he said it a couple years before the French Revolution, and I think he was more careful with his rhetoric afterwards.) In any case, there was genuine reason to imagine that their rulers might become tyrants. Truly, there are some people today who continue to believe that to be the case, but after more than two hundred years of continuous democracy, I think we’ve proven it unlikely. So here is my compromise suggestion. We can ignore that whole “well regulated militia” business. I mean, if the Supreme Court can ignore it, who am I to do otherwise. (Perhaps it was just a typo, or an quill-o, or whatever they had back then. Maybe it was just a misplaced part of some other amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peacebly to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievences A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State.” That doesn’t look right, but then I’m not a constitutional scholar). Anyway, we’ll ignore that militia business and guarantee everyone’s right to bear any arms that are of a type that existed up to 1800 (this is pretty generous since that is well after the Constitution was ratified, but this is the Holiday season and I am in a giving mood.) Then, if you want to legalize automatic, semi-automatic, extended clip, armor-piercing weaponry, all you have to do is pass a constitutional amendment. Think I’m being unreasonable? That I should know that the Framers could not foresee changes in killing technology? Times Change? Well frankly, I agree with you. The founding fathers could not possibly have imagined weaponry that would have allowed one man to wipe out half the Continental army by himself, and maybe just a handful more to take care of the state militias (Oops, I wasn’t going to bring up militias was I?) They could not possibly have imagined that every year thousands of people would slaughter one another, not in righteous wars for freedom, but in senseless massacres of innocents. There is no possible way they could have foreseen or would have condoned the present situation. If the Second amendment is the law, then the law is an ass. And if the Supreme Court believes that the current state of affairs is what the Framers had in mind then the Supreme Court is an ass as well. Either the Second amendment needs to be understood very differently or it needs to be repealed. Tragedies happen. They even happen to the very young. Tornadoes, disease, and floods can strike randomly and we can only do so much. But when month after sickening month, men and boys use high-powered weapons to annihilate thousands, and we do nothing, we have to look at ourselves. When they say “guns don’t kill people, people do”, they are right. People with guns kill people in staggering, mind boggling, mind-numbing numbers. We can get rid of the people or we can get rid of the guns. Grieve for the families, then tell your democratically elected representatives that you are sick to death of the senseless slaughter, and you want to see reasonable, real gun control enacted.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. derek permalink
    December 16, 2012 9:21 pm

    im sorry i dont agree with you, people kill people with knives and poison fertilizer to make bombs and even hammers. should we take away your hammer.how about the vehicle you drive to your farm more people die from automobile crashes than gun violence. how about alchohol?

    • December 17, 2012 4:36 pm

      Let me start by thanking you for reading my post. I know that people kill one another with all the other items you mentioned. We also regulate most of them. Some of these deaths are intentional, most are not. Yet no one would suggest the unregulated use of automobiles (from manufacture, to licensing, to traffic regulations). More importantly, i don’t really know how well this society would function without any of the things you mentioned. As much as i’d like to live in a world without cars, it’s not going to happen. Could we live without fertilizer, hammers, or knives? I don’t think so. Alcohol is in a special category. Plenty of people do fine without it, but society as a whole has already experienced prohibition, and it didn’t go well (particularly with all the guns that were around.) But when i ask myself if we could live without high-powered assault rifles, i have to say, yes. Again, i’m not saying no to guns, just no to anything more powerful or deadly than the founders intended when they wrote the Second amendment.

  2. derek permalink
    December 19, 2012 10:23 am

    it seems to me that you where getting at banning all guns, i dont have an assault rifle or pistol i have no use for either, i do have hunting rifles and my whole family eats the meat i get.i we should also look as a society the impact violent video games and movies have on us.machine guns have been around since the gatlin gun during the civil war and the famous tommy gun in the 20’s and they were alot more accessable than today but there were no mass killings like this maybe we should start looking at video games that let you shoot everyone in a fantasy world and some teenagers cant tell the difference.. its easy to blame 1 thing over another but before banning everything in society we need to find the cause , that makes people do this. great website by the way.

    • December 19, 2012 2:26 pm

      Thanks again for the comment and the thumbs up on the website. I think hunting is fine. I’ve gone hunting, though i’ve never succeeding in shooting anything anyone would relish eating. However, if you check the post and the comment again, i think you find that i am simply stating that the Constitution should only be seen as guaranteeing the right to bear the sorts of arms that the Framers could have imagined. Your hunting rifles would be fine. Those are just the sorts of arms that the founders had in mind. It is the high-powered, high-capacity, armor piercing, weaponry that i would suggest is Not protected by the 2nd amendment, and would require approval that goes beyond what currently exists. As for violence in society as a whole, i absolutely agree that we need to ask ourselves what price we pay by celebrating violence in so many different ways, from video games, to movies, to You Tube, to books and magazines. Mostly what is celebrated is the use of those same high-powered, high-capacity, armor piercing weapons that i think anyone not in active military duty could do just fine without. Lastly, you mentioned the Gatling and Tommy guns. My proposed cut off for gun technology was 1800. Neither of these weapons would make that cut.

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