Gun tragedies have touched many of our lives in one way or another. Mine was touched twice – the killing of my nephew, who died in my arms in front of my home on 10th Street in 1969; and the killing of my best friend, who died just blocks from my home on Miller Street in 1972. Both were killed with guns that should not have been in the possession of the perpetrators.
As you can see, I, too, can empathize with families who have lost loved ones to gun tragedies. But as horrific as gun tragedies are, the question remains: What can be done to prevent them?
IT SEEMS AN impossible task because the horses are out of the barn in this country when it comes to gun control. Even if legislation is passed to address the problems associated with gun ownership, people who want to use guns to commit violence still will find a way to get their hands on them
and do it.
In fact, by tightening control, people will get their weapons from the black market, which will make things worse because the purchasing of disbanded weapons will shift to the underworld. In addition, there are enough guns already available that could arm an army. How do we get them off the street? The biggest gun buy-back program cannot solve this problem, and I doubt whether federal and state regulations can, either.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t do something? Absolutely not. However, there are some problems I believe that we cannot legislate ourselves out of. We need not fool ourselves that there is some kind of magic wand to address this problem. There isn’t.
Yet, I feel compelled to speak on one component of the gun debate, which does not seem to get much attention. That is the Second Amendment of the Constitution. There is no way of getting around this right unless it is repealed. The chances of that happening are nil. It is senseless to argue against the Second Amendment. It is clear that citizens have the right to bear arms, just as they do to speak, vote or any other right guaranteed under the Constitution.
However, there are both state and federal regulations that must be followed exercising this right. This is where the problem arises. Many gun owners believe the Second Amendment not only gives them the right to bear arms but also to protect themselves from their own government.
I DON’T BELIEVE at all that this group is callous about the shooting tragedies that have occurred recently, especially the killing of innocent children in Connecticut. To them, though, it is a matter of priority – what scares them most. Is it a person walking into a theater with an assault weapon and killing a bunch of people; a deranged individual going into a school and killing teachers and children; or a man shooting individuals from a campus tower in Texas?
Although all of these events do shake the beliefs of this group of people, their overriding reason for fighting control, which very few want to discuss, is the hate some of them have for their government. It is not the enemy from without that they fear most. It is the enemy from within. Since the Civil War, mistrust has been a part of the American culture, especially in the South.
The foundation for this belief, I believe, is not the Constitution, but the Declaration of Independence, which says in part:
“(W)henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends” – to secure the rights of the people to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. … (W)hen a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”
THIS IS THE reason, I believe, that some will fight tooth and nail to keep their arms – assault weapons and all. It is not about hunting. Even a fool knows this. It is not about protecting homes from burglaries. It is not so much about protecting loved ones from violence. It is all about one day having to fight their government.
The gun debate will continue without any cooperation from groups that fight against any kind of gun control. No meaningful legislation will come about –
one of the unintended consequences, in my opinion, when the Second Amendment and the Declaration of Independence were written.
(The writer is a former Augusta City Council member and a retired labor relations manager from Bechtel Savannah River Inc.)