Wednesday, March 29, 2023

America's Gun History And A Possible Path Forward

Let's talk about guns.
Specifically let's talk about America's culture and history which is intertwined with guns and gun violence and let's reasonably consider what we may be able to do now.

I. First, a bit of history.
Even before we became a nation, guns were a fact of life here. And, it could be argued that were it not for guns we would have never achieved our independence. After all, we won the American Revolution with guns. Throughout American history guns have been a way of settling scores both large and small.
Two of our founding fathers fought a duel with guns and one of them died.
Native Americans had bows and arrows. We had guns. We vanquished them with guns. The West was settled and tamed with guns. State boundaries were determined with guns. Territorial rights were protected with guns. Pathways, trails, waterways and roads were secured via the barrel of a gun.
It's no accident that the right to bear arms was written into our Constitution and that it is part of our hallowed Bill of Rights. It's not a mistake that this right was linked to the protection of individual and property rights as well as the right of the citizenry to be protected from all credible threats to their freedom and security, both foreign and domestic.
The gun history and gun culture of America has been bloody and messy. Brother turned against brother and sister turned against sister in a tragic dispute that ripped our nation apart. And it was all carried out with guns at a tremendous toll that haunts us to this day.
In my own lifetime a president and a presidential candidate have been assassinated and three other presidents and one presidential candidate have been the targets of assassinations (two of them seriously injured) and all of these were carried out with guns.
Guns in America have been glamorized, idolized, celebrated, venerated and, depending on the circumstances characterized as everything from playthings to the last, most trusted, most cherished line of defense against madness, mendacity and mayhem.
Guns are thoroughly intertwined with our popular culture.
If you doubt this, look at the lineup of our most popular movies (including more than a few blockbusters), TV shows and video games. In an age of haves and have-nots, guns turned Bonnie and Clyde into twisted heroes. And guns created Al Capone and the mob as well as their chief nemesis Elliot Ness.
J. Edgar Hoover would never have achieved the power that he achieved without an arsenal of gun-totting agents who did his bidding. And military leaders from George Washington to Ulysses Grant to Dwight D. Eisenhower would never have become heroes without guns.
Guns are written into our laws, they are popularized by our culture, they are intertwined with our history and they are part of our way of life.
This is nothing new.
It's been going on for a long time.
So when you talk about gun rights and gun control in America, you're pushing a very, very hot button. 
If you want to see change, you'd better have clear, attainable goals. You'd better know what you're talking about. You'd better have reliable allies. You'd better be able to build bridges and form coalitions.
This is not a battle for the faint of heart.

II. But that should not stop us from trying!
Because once again we're faced with the most horrifying kind gun violence and the death of little children. 
So now, the time has come to get real and deal with the problem that faces us.
Yes, there's been enough finger-pointing and there's more than enough blame to go around.
And everybody's culpable here. The Democrats certainly aren't without blame as they had the White House and clear majorities in both houses of Congress and they actually did little to stem the tide of gun crime.
Indeed, the assault weapons ban expired in 2004 but once Barack Obama and the Dems gained complete control in 2008, they didn't reinstitute the ban. For the record: the ban was originally signed into law by Bill Clinton but even President Reagan supported it. So, yes -- this is a problem for both parties.
Blame, blame, blame, blame and blame.
OK. Now that we've said that and have gotten that out of our system, what now?

III. What should we actually do?
No single action will be a panacea.
There's no easy answer here. But as Ronald Reagan once said, there are simple answers -- the kind of answers that involve right and wrong. So, steps must be taken.
To any reasonably sane person the following steps would appear to be obvious priorities:

1) The assault weapons ban should probably be re-eneacted. There's no guarantee it will stem the tide of violence but there's no compelling reason not to put it back into effect, either.

2) Background checks must be toughened.

3) Much tighter controls need to be put on gun ownership by persons with mental disorders. In the case of unstable or questionable persons who already possess guns, the idea of a gun ownership restraining order seems to have merit. 

4) Hollywood and the popular culture and the media must be held accountable. The glorification of violence must be halted. This ain't no movie and it ain't no video game. This is serious now, understand?

5) Social media must come to the table. They share some of the responsibility for this.

6) We must beef up security in ALL schools including the posting of armed guards. Here, we can use retired law enforcement and retired military if need be. Billions of dollars for schools was part of the Covid monies and still much of that remains unspent. That money (and more) must be used for school security. 

7) The mental health crisis in this country must be addressed. There are far too many deranged people out and about. Also, mental health counselors may be needed in more schools.

8) Respect must be restored for the sanctity of human life and that means that we must have the courage to address the abomination that is abortion on demand. Remember: respect for human life is not a selective matter. And while we're add it, respect and support for law enforcement must be restored as well.

And one more thing: parents (especially indigent parents) should be given school choice. Parents deserve the right and the financial help, through vouchers, to send their children to secure private or parochial schools.
Our nation is facing a very, very, serious situation.
All sides must accept responsibility and all sides must be willing to cede something for the greater good. There can be no progress until and unless that happens.

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