I try to avoid political discussions (especially in an election year) as I never relish a hot-headed argument that leads nowhere and changes the mind of no one. But this morning I read that Orlando set a new high in gun deaths in 2015, and the local section featured four articles about recent shootings and gun deaths in 2016. We central Floridians appear to be picking up right where we left off. The news of the ongoing bloodshed distressed me once again, and I decided to publish an essay I wrote last month following the mass killing in San Bernardino.
Many gun ownership advocates claim that they are strict readers of the Constitution, but conveniently forget that the Second Amendment speaks about gun ownership in the context of maintaining well regulated militias. I agree that state militias should bear arms and be well regulated. Private gun ownership is another matter.
But before I anger a number of you let me say that my father owned bolt action rifles and a shot gun when I was a child. He never used them to threaten bodily harm to any living creature other than squirrels and an occasional rabbit. He taught me how to aim and fire a rifle and a shot gun. I enjoyed target shooting and understand why folks are fond of their guns. Consequently I do not oppose ownership of single shot hunting rifles and shotguns as they are not designed with the sole intention of killing human beings. And if someone did wish to use them to commit mass murder he would have greater difficulty concealing these weapons when entering a crowded space, and if he did manage to get off a shot there would be a delay before he could begin targeting again.
Weapons that are designed solely to kill other people should be restricted or banned. Hand guns are used in the vast majority of gun deaths in America. Their only function is to kill human beings. (You’ll never see a deer hunter pull out a .45 to take down a buck.) If gun rights advocates assert that individuals have a right to defend themselves and should own hand guns if they desire, then I can reluctantly agree if the weapons have a limited magazine. If confronted by someone breaking into my home I don’t believe that I will need to turn the invader into mincemeat by firing a clip at his torso. Assault rifles have been used in mass shootings for the last 30 years. They obviously are intended to be used in situations that go beyond the self-defense of an individual. Their primary purpose, in their original design as military weapons, is to spray bullets at a wide field of targets with the intent of killing as many people as possible in a short period of time. Unless I am attacked on the street by a swarm of well armed gangsters it is unlikely that I will ever need an assault rifle to defend myself.
Strict and conservative readers of the Constitution claim that updated interpretations of and recent amendments to the original document pervert its meaning and belie the intentions of the Founding Fathers. They believe that the Second Amendment must never be challenged or reconsidered in light of current social and technological changes. My comments above brand me a traitor in the eyes of these purists. But are they being strict enough? I’d like to take their argument one step further to introduce a greater form of patriotism that truly adheres to all things deeply conservative. Put aside the endless debate about whether gun ownership is made sacrosanct by the Second Amendment. Let’s say that it does guarantee the right of every American to own a gun. But let’s turn our attention to the guns themselves.
If we take up the issue of gun rights then let us be faithful to the intentions and understanding of our forefathers. They spoke and wrote in terms of the weaponry of their age. At the time of the writing of the Constitution the only guns available were single shot rifles and pistols. Their weapons had to be muzzle loaded. The accuracy of pistols and rifles were as limited as their firing rates. It took a lot of care and concentration to hit a target, and a skilled rifleman could only take two successive shots within the span of a minute or two.
A man had time to consider the effect of his choice to use deadly violence before firing once again. He didn’t have the soft leisure of squeezing a trigger and holding it down while indiscriminately firing in all directions. He had to choose one particular victim and take deliberate aim.
I fully support a return to the good old days of our forefathers and the use of their weapons of choice. Let’s honor tradition and the original intent of the Constitution by jettisoning our modern, newfangled weapons and by replacing them with flintlock rifles and single shot, muzzle loading pistols. We could all still defend ourselves if absolutely necessary in our every day encounters. All other weapons should be banned and confiscated as they are unmanly and unpatriotic. Folks who consider themselves true Americans can get behind this incredibly conservative movement, can’t they?
Then no religious, racist or political fanatic could become an “active shooter” and mow down masses of people trapped in a crowded, enclosed space. Then no conscienceless punk could kill a score of innocent bystanders while trying to rub out a member of a rival gang. Then no father, mother, sister, brother would have to identify the body of a loved one torn into hamburger by bullets rapid-fired from an assault rifle by a suicidal, psychopathic idiot.