Pat Paulsen, the stone-faced comedian who ran for president in 1968 said, "Guns are not the problem. I think we should lock up all the bullets." Another time, Paulsen suggested we pass a law that a bullet cannot travel more than 12 inches before falling to the ground.
I've been following the latest challenge to the rights of gun owners, and the right of government to regulate firearms, in the highest court in the land.
The Supreme Court, in its divided and activist wisdom, struck down the Washington D.C. ban on hand guns, prompting liberals (that would be people like me) into wringing their hands over our streets becoming killing fields, while the NRA and many of its lunatic-fringe supporters are celebrating their right to own and bear howitzers. The truth, and common sense probably resides between the two extremes. A quick look at what the justices said may be helpful.
Justice Scalia, writing for the majority said, "The court's opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms." He went on to say that the 2nd Amendment, "is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
That seems to leave open the right of states and municipalities to manage guns in society as deemed locally appropriate.
Justice Breyer, writing the dissenting opinion stated the decision would, "encourage legal challenges to gun regulation" and "leave the nation without clear standards for resolving those challenges," adding, "and litigation over the course of many years, or the mere specter of such litigation, threatens to leave cities without effective protection against gun violence and accidents during that time."
So, the court is as divided on this issue as is much of America. For this progressive, we again need to seek a middle ground.
There is a serious question to be raised about the feasibility of having 300 million people walking the streets with loaded handguns in their pockets - the handgun having been invented primarily to kill other people, not for hunting.
The CDC National Centers for Health statistic reports that in 2005 (the most recent year for which data is available), there were 30,694 gun deaths in the United States: 12,352 homicides (40 percent of all U.S gun deaths), 17,002 suicides (55 percent of all U.S gun deaths), 789 unintentional shootings, 330 from legal intervention and 221 from undetermined intent (5 percent of all U.S gun deaths combined).
Almost 31,000 people, that's the equivalent of wiping out everyone in Magnolia, and then some; that's a lot of people, making it hard to argue that we don't need some control over who carries weapons, where.
The argument that an armed society - the gunnies like to call it a militia - can be a deterrent to anyone, domestic or foreign, entertaining the idea of a dictatorship or coup has merit as well, President Bush's excesses notwithstanding.
Admiral Yamamoto in advising Japan's military leaders of the futility of invading the United States during World War II said, "You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass."
I like Barack Obama because he uses reason as opposed to emotional outbursts in pursuit of solutions. Following the Court's ruling, he stated, "I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view."
The path to reaching a balance between protecting our constitutional rights, and the interests of public safety has never been an easy journey, but we've come a long way in just over 500 years.
We've grown from a handful of colonies where men and women sat on opposite sides of the church, where child labor was common, women's rights were nonexistent, and human beings were imported for slavery and treated worse than livestock, to a nation regarded as the most democratic and free society in history.
With a legacy of continually striving for a better, freer, and more compassionate future, I'm convinced we'll find the right answer once again.[[In-content Ad]]