I’m a little tired of this. I’m guessing you are, too.
We’re living in very strange times. I’ll have more to say about that – from a big picture perspective – soon. But for now, let’s stay focused.
There have been eight school shootings so far in 2018. Taking out weekends, when they don’t happen, that’s one every four days, or more than one a week. They’ve become so routine that you probably don’t know about any of them other than the one in Florida this week. I certainly don’t.
What’s wrong with us that we allow this to go on?
After the Las Vegas massacre (Remember that? It’s rapidly fading?), the disgraced and disgraceful Bill O’Reilly said, “That’s the price of freedom.”
He couldn’t have been more wrong. Or more ignorant.
It’s a sound, solid, conservative principle that when the need for a law or government program goes away, the law or program should go away, too.
Stay with me. And please know that everything that follows can be validated with very simple Google searches. Like “Why do we have a Second Amendment.”
The notion that the Second Amendment exists in order to allow fiercely independent Americans to protect themselves and their property from marauders and from the risk of government oppression is a myth. It has far more to do with John Ford westerns than with anything the Founders said.
The fact (which is a stubborn thing, according to Founder John Adams) is that the Founders put the Second Amendment into the Constitution because they didn’t want to create a standing army. That’s why the amendment starts with the language about a “well-regulated public militia.” And it’s why they disbanded the Continental Army immediately upon the end of the Revolutionary War.
What were they afraid of? They were afraid that a standing Federal army might threaten or overwhelm the states. (Remember, the word “state” actually means “country,” as in “Department of State.” The United States was initially a federation of 13 separate countries.)
They were also afraid that a standing Federal army might threaten the Federal government, itself.
So they decided that if armies were needed, they would rather that let the states raise them on the spot through militias. You kept your musket at home, and if Virginia or Massachusetts called, you came.
In short, the Founders did not put create the Second Amendment in order to protect the people from an oppressive government. They created it to protect the government from what they feared would be an oppressive army.
Well, the standing army that was disbanded after the Revolutionary War was re-established in the War of 1812, and we’ve had one ever since. We’ve had a very large standing army since WWI, and a really, really large standing army since WWII.
In other words, that train left the station a long, long time ago. So long ago that it wasn’t even a train. It was a horse leaving a barn.
Here’s what the idiocracy of the O’Reillys don’t understand.
The foundation of American liberty is the notion that your right to swing your arm ends at my nose. Before there was a Bill of Rights, there was a statement of three “inalienable” rights with which we are all endowed. The first of those is Life. Notice that they put Life before Liberty. Why? Perhaps because liberty without life is a non sequitur.
17 people, most of them children, were permanently deprived of their right to life this week. In October, 58 people in Las Vegas were similarly deprived. Only 5 weeks after that, 26 people were deprived of their right to life in a church in Texas. The list goes on and on.
If you consider all shootings in which four or more people wounded or dead, they happen in this country at the rate of nearly one a day.
This – and I’m not going out on a limb here – is crazy. As The Onion famously said (sadly, four years ago), “‘No Way To Prevent This’ Says Only Country Where This Happens.”
We all know why it happens. Gun manufacturers fund the NRA, and the NRA uses that money to threaten Congressmen/women and Senators if there’s even a whiff of gun control. None of this is a secret. It’s not about liberty at all. It’s about money, manipulation and tragedy.
This is a solvable problem. We don’t have the will to solve it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t solvable. Here’s a formulation that would work:
First, repeal the Second Amendment. Yup. S*!#-can it. Like I said, conservatism calls for the repeal of laws that have outlived their original purpose. This one is 200 years obsolete.
Second, change our mindset from one of “You have a right to own a gun unless we can find (without looking very hard) an overwhelming reason why you shouldn’t” to one of “In order to buy a gun, you have to prove that you can own it responsibly.”
We could enforce that mindset by requiring three things of anyone who wants to own a gun:
- Before you can buy a gun, you have to pass the same background check required to obtain a Top Secret security clearance. (Don’t be alarmed. Top Secret is only the second rung on the security clearance ladder.) And you have to pay the actual cost of that investigation.
- Before you purchase, and every year thereafter, you have to obtain a certification from a licensed mental health professional that you are of sufficiently sound mind to own a firearm. No mental health professional who is a gun owner him- or herself will be allowed to provide such certifications. You have to pay for that evaluation.
- Just like you do with your car, you have to maintain liability insurance in case your gun is used (by you or anyone else) to do harm to other persons or property. Not only would this create a whole new insurance market, which would be good for the economy, it would actually price the risk of gun ownership. Of course, you have to pay for that insurance.
That would do it.
We could also simply outlaw weapons capable of rapid firing, which is what the Australians did in 1996. They did this after a single mass shooting incident because they couldn’t imagine not taking action. And a bunch of fiercely proud, independent Australians were patriotic enough, and other-oriented enough, that they turned in their guns. Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting incident since. Meanwhile, we have one a day. Again, facts are stubborn things.
We have a second chance to get this right. The 535 invertebrates who represent us in Washington won’t do it unless we collectively make it clear to them that we’re mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. We probably won’t because collectively we are more persuaded by tv ads and the Bill O’Reillys of the world than by reason and fact.
But we should.
And we should remember that this week there are 14 more children who won’t get a second chance. And those are just the ones we know about.