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Gotta gun? That’s part of the problem in our country | GUEST VIEWPOINT
BY BOB SEABY
After the recent horrific massacres in Aurora, Colo. and Oak Creek, Wisc. — and even more recent events — to write that gun violence has become a part of our everyday experience is an understatement.
As a young boy I grew up watching Hopalong Cassidy and Roy Rogers and continued with “77 Sunset Strip,” and “Gunsmoke” as an adolescent. Today gun story lines continue with television programs like “Criminal Minds” and “CSI.”
Guns, stories with guns and gun violence have become a common and ever increasing part of our lives. Add to this the popularity of televised out-of-control behavior as seen on various reality programs and the glamorization of gun play and violence in popular alternative music and film and we have a gun saturated environment.
Unfortunately, tragic events like the massacres in Colorado and Wisconsin have happened before and will no doubt happen again.
The Second Amendment to our Constitution states: “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.” These words by our Founding Fathers will continue to be interpreted and debated ad nauseum.
Interestingly, one of the only other countries with a higher gun owner per capita rate than the United States is Switzerland and the Swiss have virtually no gun crime. Of course, those who believe in a well-armed populace like to cite Switzerland as a shining example of a well-armed populace.
However, countries like Switzerland with a homogenous, well-educated population and an unemployment rate under 4 percent are hardly similar to the demographics of the United States.
While our cultural, racial and ethnic diversity are viewed as a source of strength and vitality by many, for others this diversity is a source of fear, loathing and hostility.
What some do not understand, tolerate or even accept, the Second Amendment guarantees a tangible margin of safety — a gun. Add to this scenario the perception that our justice system and various police agencies no longer have the ability to protect and serve, but have deteriorated to function merely as administrators and after-the-fact clean-up specialists. It is not surprising that more and more Americans find it desirable and in some communities necessary to possess a gun in some shape or form.
In 1791, 221 years ago, when the Second Amendment was passed, the Founding Fathers had in mind a “well-regulated militia.”
Today after years of Supreme Court interpretations and rulings we may not have a “well-regulated militia” but we do have a well-armed population. Both law-abiding citizens as well as this country’s criminal element are armed and ready for action. Unfortunately the incidents of gun violence we have seen in this country seems to be increasing and these episodes have been getting increasingly more deadly.
Some believe that if we can’t keep guns out of the hands of the criminal element then maybe it is time to more visibly arm the police and others. Of course we then run the risk of having characters like George Zimmerman playing vigilante with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. At present the playing field is not level and it seems it is time for the criminal element to be as concerned and fearful of being shot as the rest of us. The current philosophy of gun control has failed and it may be time to consider alternative solutions, if indeed there are solutions.
The NRA’s 4.3 million members exert a powerful influence on this country’s political scene. To take a position for any level of gun control could spell the end for an elected official.
In 1970, Democratic Sen. Joe Tydings of Maryland with a 3-1 advantage with registered Democrats was defeated by a Republican in his bid for re-election because he proposed firearms registration. Today many members of Congress and the Senate avoid any and all discussion and debate on the proliferation of firearms in this country fearing voter backlash. Like with so many other pressing problems, our elected representatives are more concerned with their own re-election and gun control is not a safe talking point.
Bottom line is that we will never remove guns from our society but we should be able to control who can own a gun and what type of gun can be owned.
I am not interested in infringing on the rights of citizens to hunt, own and fire guns for sport or recreation and insure their own personal safety, but how does a semi-automatic rifle capable of firing 100 rounds in a minute fit in here? Does my right to be safe and secure walking the streets, sitting in a restaurant or movie theatre come in second after the right of others to own guns?
Our Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
A lone heavily armed gunman in both Colorado and Wisconsin denied innocent men, women and children of their right to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” and for some this denial is permanent.
In the 1850s vigilantes were active in San Francisco as a result of the inability of the police to rid the city’s streets of criminals.
If our elected representatives and the criminal justice system continue to fail to protect all of us and see that we are not denied “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” we may see a return to a form of vigilantism as seen in San Francisco 150 years ago.
It is time for the NRA, both houses of Congress and the president to “man up” and see that no one suffers or dies as a result of the current endorsement and interpretation of the second amendment. It is time for those in charge to lead, follow or get out of the way.
Bob Seaby is a retired public school teacher from California and a Bainbridge Island resident.