Saturday, January 12, 2013


        The NRA’s response to the Newtown massacre is infuriating to me, but to be expected. Their solution to the widespread gun violence in America is more guns! Why should anyone be surprised by the number of gun-related killings in the United States, where there are almost as many guns as people?
        I’ve never owned a gun, but I grew up handling guns. From the age of seven till I was twenty-three I wore a uniform most of the time. Like most other young boys I enjoyed shooting at tin cans with a bee-bee gun, and I liked shooting targets at amusement parks.
        I spent eleven years at McDonogh, a military school near Pikesville, Maryland. At Princeton University I joined the ROTC unit, but later enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to a V-12 unit. Following midshipmen’s school I eventually served aboard the USS Chandeleur (AV-10). As Disbursing Officer and later Supply Officer I was issued a 45-caliber automatic pistol, which I wore whenever I was transporting funds ashore, accompanied by two well-armed seamen. I was once actually wounded slightly by one of my fellow officers in an accidental shooting that occurred in the armory of our ship, of all places! But that’s another story.
James Yeager
        I share this bit of my background as a preface to what I have to say about the present situation in America, where gun violence has become a way of life and gun ownership is viewed as a sacred right. Gun owners bristle at the very mention of the term “gun control.” Witness the wild rantings of James Yeager, who declared, "I'm not letting anybody take my guns! If it goes one inch further, I'm going to start killing people!" If you can stand his foul language, check out his YouTube video.

Joe Biden and the Task /Force
         Something must be done to stop the violence that has become endemic in our society. While we await the report of the special task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden, some see any limitation on their right to own however many weapons and whatever kinds of weapons they want as a violation of their rights under the Second Amendment.
        I have a different perspective on this highly complex issue. There are three problems relating to gun legislation that nobody seems to want to deal with. One relates to the 2008 landmark decision of the Supreme Court in the District of Columbia v. Heller to reinterpret the Second Amendment as protecting the right of individuals to own firearms. That decision represented a huge victory for the NRA, whose persistent lobbying finally paid off. That decision needs to be repealed, but the gun manufacturers, the NRA, the gun owners of America, and the intimidated congressional representatives of both parties will use every argument, every ruse to keep it from happening. The underlying determinative issues here are economic and political, not constitutional. The abuse of the Second Amendment is the fundamental barrier to resolving the issue of gun control.  
        The second problem has to do with ordinary human behavior. Guns are for killing. Where there are guns, people are going to get killed. And it’s not just psychopaths and criminal types who do the killing. Apart from the many gun-related deaths and injuries that are accidental, like mine, there are the homicides committed by ordinary people who in a moment of rage resort to violence, and if there’s a gun handy will use it. So road rage causes an infuriated driver to pull a gun out of the glove compartment and shoot another driver for honking at him. A shouting match can easily lead to a shooting.
        There’s a beast in all of us that can rear its ugly head in sudden and unexpected ways in reaction to unplanned and unpredicted provocations. Some folks are quicker to fly off the handle than others, but who knows how even the most placid individual might react under certain circumstances?
        And what does it say about our culture that ordinary private citizens feel they need to own a gun for self-protection? I’m not referring just to assault weapons. I’m talking about handguns. Now the NRA and its backers want to arm teachers! The idea of having guns in classrooms is not only dangerous, it is outrageous! But what is even more frightening is that many teachers are preparing to do just that!
        The third issue is the biggest elephant in the room, and I don’t expect many to agree with me. It’s the issue of hunting itself. Every politician, however liberal or conservatives he or she might be, is quick to justify the use of guns for hunting. They proudly declare their love of hunting. Of course there are often justifiable reasons for hunting, such as the need periodically to cull the exploding deer populations in some states, where deer are a serious menace to drivers. But from my faith perspective killing for pleasure is not a justifiable motive. The killing of God’s creatures purely for sport is a stain on our humanity and a violation of our stewardship of life.
        I’ll admit my feelings on this issue are somewhat extreme. I don’t expect Congress to repeal the Second Amendment or the Supreme Court to rescind its recent interpretation of it. I doubt if our nation will follow the example of Australia and institute a widespread buy-back program  But who can reasonably deny that sensitive gun legislation is urgently needed. The right to bear arms should not include assault weapons and guns with high capacity magazines. Background checks must be required, tighter registration procedures must be established for the sale of guns, including the purchase of guns at gun shows, and restrictions must be imposed on the sale of guns on the Internet.
        Congress should act immediately to institute these and other sensible measures to prevent the gang related shootings that are taking place every day in many of our cities and the horrible mass killings that are occurring so often, such as the unspeakably tragic murder of those twenty children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. It‘s time for our elected representatives at all levels of government to take their stand against the NRA and the gun lobbyists and do what is right for the people of America.
        What are your thoughts on the subject?

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