Originally published in the Lititz Record Express, July 9, 2020. Repeated here because I think it’s time we all answer the question I posed at the end of the piece, if only in an attempt to reach some common ground toward trying to solve this ongoing national nightmare.
The news says gun sales are soaring nationwide. It’s America’s normal reaction to national crisis: Buy a gun. Maybe we’re just a stupid and paranoid bunch of tribesmen. Or maybe we think that’s the ultimate way to stop the coronavirus–we all shoot ourselves and there’s no one left for it to infect. I adhere to the former theory.
The 4th of July, as was recommended in an LNP editorial at the holiday, was a great time to read our founding documents. The Declaration of Independence is pretty straightforward in telling us that “all men are created equal.” Of course, it doesn’t specifically include women nor “merciless Indian Savages.” And since black people were considered sub-human at the time, they also missed out. Two centuries later, we’re still trying to make those things right. Strangely, the Declaration contains a “bullet list” of grievances against the tyranny of the “King of England” that reads very much like a contemporary list of complaints about our current wannabe king.
As to the Constitution, I tried, but got bogged down in the minutiae of the organizational rules and regulations. Moving on to the Bill of Rights, I felt, in light of the recent gun issues in Lancaster County, I should really look at the Second Amendment closely.
To refresh your memories, there was that appearance by private “militia” on the rooftops of downtown Elizabethtown, making it America’s un-coolest small town, at least on that day. Then we had the phantom gunman in Lancaster’s Central Market. As if not wearing a mask and carrying an assault-style rifle wasn’t un-cool enough, the guy was wearing shorts. And finally, there’s my own personal experience on a recent weekend in Pequea.
My wife and I took a drive down there so she could renew wonderful childhood memories with a look at the former site of her grandparents’ riverside cottage. As we parked the car at the public boat launch, along came a couple of deplorables, the male of the pair in a wife-beater shirt, all tattooed to the max and carrying a huge six-shooter in the front pocket of his jeans. Somehow I knew it wasn’t a cap pistol.
Now I admit to being a bit judgmental and to evaluating people by first impression. It’s quite possible, had I suffered a heart attack then and there, this guy might have rushed to my aid, fumbling in his pocket, after removing that hog he was carrying, to find a cell phone to call 911. However, seeing that I didn’t require such assistance, I found the whole thing pretty intimidating, and was wondering about the correlation between looking so hoi polloi and feeling the need to openly carry. Hey, at least he had on long pants!
Anyway, back to the Second Amendment. Reading that list of grievances in the Declaration, you’d think that the historical context in which that amendment was written in 1791 meant for the emphasis to be on the words “well-regulated militia.” In 1788, Alexander Hamilton proposed in Federalist 29 that such a militia should be minimal in size, should not include all citizens, and should be well trained and under the strict control of the state governments. So it seems pretty obvious that open carry is stretching both the spirit and letter of the Constitution. Fine with me if you want to go out in the woods hunting, I’ll just stay clear. Fine if you have sound reason and are legally permitted for concealed carry. But each state and/or each local municipality should have the right to ban the silliness of open carry.
Boy, I miss those old British movies when the coppers had nothing but nightsticks and the bad guys wouldn’t have dared to use a gun. Alas, that time has passed. The violent nature of America’s culture, along with our ability to propagate the media that depict it, has sullied the entire world. So, as an act of partial atonement, I would ask you to do this simple thought experiment:
Suppose that the aliens’ ships arrive and their loudspeakers announce worldwide that they have the power to make every single gun on our planet disappear in an instant. Every one. Poof! But, we Earthlings first had to vote on whether they should do that or not. How would you vote?
©2022, David B Bucher
PS: One letter writer responding to this column ended his tirade with: “Getting to Dave’s final question: My position is that no homo sapiens should allow their inalienable rights to be infringed by any ‘alien ship’s’ proposal broadcast by their loudspeakers.” Probably won’t be seeing this guy on Jeopardy.