After the tragic shootings in Tucson, Arizona two weeks ago, some have urged that the country must look at stricter gun control, while other have pled the Second—Amendment, that is, that all of us should be able to bear arms as a basic right.
The original United States Constitution of the 18th century was written only a few precious years after the Revolutionary War, when young upstart citizens of a British colony decided that the rule of the Mother country was tyrannical. And, in the spirit of the times and of several European countries (France in particular), clamored for an end to monarchical power, with a democratic state to take its place.
It is not then hard to understand that after free speech, the next amendment that would follow would be the freedom to bear arms in case the current government went afoul.
Today, we do not have a monarchy but by all accounts one of the greatest democracies the world has ever known. We elect representatives, senators, governors and a president to guide the country. We have checks and balances within the three government branches and the party in the minority has the means to stop legislation that it deems bad policy for its citizens. And we go to the polls every two years to elect or vote out the leaders we like or dislike.
Yet with all the safeguards our democratic system has, an odd refrain has reared its head in the dialogue dialog over gun control. While arguments are made that hunters should be able to have guns to hunt and people should have guns to protect themselves and their property, etc., many on the “right” side of this issue put forward an even more compelling reason to own guns. These people—who often own not just one gun but many guns, and guns that are sophisticated in killing or disabling many people as quickly as possible, as Jared Loughner did two weeks ago are—are convinced these weapons are necessary in the event that another overthrow of the U.S. government becomes necessary.
The rationale is simple: The founding fathers over 200 years ago wrote the Second Amendment, and as in some Biblical interpretations we must strictly apply it to modern life no matter what the human cost or the loss of freedom for those who choose not to carry a concealed weapon.
And we must do this because of an unsubstantiated paranoia that stockpiling guns and ammunition will make our elected government work better, and if all else fails is our best hope to remodel our democracy.
In 2008, when then-Candidate Barack Obama was heard to say that many who are disadvantaged cling to their guns and religion, the press was quick to report this as a “gaffe.” But, as many pundits have come to realize over the years, “gaffes” many times hold more truth and honesty then prepared statements.
After the shooting in Tucson and the reactions to sensible gun control changes in the law, President Obama’s gaffe seems to ring even truer today.
Jeffrey R Moualim lives in Santa Ynez. He is treasurer of the Committee of Ten Thousand, a national grassroots advocacy organization for people with Hemophilia, HIV, and HCV, based In Washington D.C. and Santa Barbara.