ethel’s words

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GUNS ARE HERE TO STAY: A Layperson’s View

We need only to read the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution to perceive that all but one restrict powers of the Federal Government (later extended to all governments in the nation). These mandates protect The People from excesses of governance, abuses of power, and infringement on liberties.

The Tenth Amendment provides that rights not covered by the other nine “are reserved to the states” (“states’ rights”) and that these, or any other residual powers or rights are granted also to The People.

Yet, the gun possessors and campaigners want us to believe (and many non-gun persons do believe) that the Second Amendment is an exception; that it is not a restraint on government, but, that in conferring the privilege of “bearing arms”, the gun-bearers are granted a right to use the fear and/or power of the gun against fellow citizens (any fellow humans). They propose that the thoughtful amenders, who were fearful of abuse of power, abandoned that apprehension and lavished power on self-appointed, self-directed volunteers, giving, in fact, police power nearly equal to that granted to police officers hired by the various governments. Not only does this seem to diminish the authority of police officers who are, in many communities, well-educated in rights, evidence, and other relevant studies, it belittles their professionalism. The police officer has invested much effort to earn the privilege of carrying a gun. The amateur gun-wielder more closely resembles the soldier, who is trained to kill, than the police officer who is educated to protect rights, even of recalcitrant suspects.

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The first ten amendments (“The Bill of Rights”) were an urgent afterthought among persons who had just cast off a tyrannical monarchy. Examining the sentiments of that era, we find a profound fear of oppressive government. In the Declaration of Independence (that of course has no legal power but has profound traditional influence) we read that, when a government becomes abusive, it is the duty of the people to “throw off such government”.

The Articles of Confederation conceived a militia to protect the states from illegitimate military policing by/of the Central Government. That militia provision included requirement of ready supplies--tents, shovels, tools of defense, guns, and disciplined personnel. Is it not reasonable that that “militia provision” was the basis for the Second Amendment? Would “Second Amendment militia”--today--think themselves the ones to chastise the Federal Government--restrain its militarism? These sentiments preserve our cherished ideas of freedom, but in practical applications, do not make sense today, not only because of technological enhancements of killing tools, but also because few individuals seriously subscribe to tenets of active self-government. As important as those are (holding us together) the human relationships are so varied, the cultural imperatives so diverse, the idea of restraining Federal military policing by undisciplined vigilantes rather than by legislation is ludicrous, as well as patently unnecessary.

If the gun-power granted by the 2nd Amendment is indeed for resisting Federal troops, few would have a taste for that. The little-understood Posse Comitatus Act, meant to oppose military rule, is another puzzle, and frequently violated.

It is disturbing that the power of the gun, from which all authority flows, convinces a nation that special policing privileges should be granted to gun wielders who are untrained in the decision-making required to appropriately shoot: a human, a dog, whatever.

But the gun-bearers are not going to allow seriously restricting regulations or laws; change will have to come from basic societal and political transformations. Utah, as a stark example, has unique cultural problems in dealing with any attempt to regulate gun-bearing. Religio/political influence in the State’s culture envisions inevitable and, in fact, desirable war and wars, partly because of immersion in a concept of struggle between “good” and “evil”, to be resolved with violence. These constructs so permeate the mentality in Utah, they seem to be as natural as the affection for food.

Ethel C. Hale