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Latest mass shooting should be our last

By From page A7 | December 18, 2012

There is something wrong with us as a nation when 20 young children are massacred in their classroom – one in a long line of such travesties. It keeps happening, more often here than in any other supposedly civilized country in the world. And it has to stop.

What can anyone say? Perhaps we could turn around the oft-heard phrase “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” by acknowledging that so many people would not do so – and in such numbers – without the ready access to an assault rifle such as that the killer used.

We could discuss the difficulty of dealing with mental illness when patients have been turned out of facilities or forego treatment because of budget cuts or a refusal of a family (or an individual) to admit that there is a problem. Perhaps we could expand on that subject, bemoaning the continued (and wrong-minded) stigma/shame/denial of mental illness – and why it is so hard for average people to get (and afford) help when it is needed for themselves or a family member.

We could talk about evil.

Or hate.

Or anger.

Or fear.

Or we could ask this: What can we do today that might offer at least a small note of solace?

And we are stumped by our own question.

At the interfaith service Sunday evening in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama said he would use “whatever power this office holds” to engage with law enforcement, mental health professionals, parents and educators in an effort to prevent more tragedies.

“What choice do we have?” Obama said on a stage that held only a small table covered with a black cloth, candles and the presidential podium – and no other trappings of his office. “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”

We cannot delay asking why mental illness goes untreated and why these elements came together to so brutally attack an entire town’s hopes for the future. And we must, in the depths of despair at what happened in a place where everyone felt so safe, find a way to keep the conversation civil and ongoing.

For if we don’t do this now, inevitably we will have yet another tragedy to rage against, to report, to regret.

As the families of Newtown begin to bury their dead – the children and the adults who performed so bravely to protect them – we can be conscious of their sorrow, even in the midst of being lost in our own gratitude that our children are safe – at least for today.

In the coming days, as they continue the agonizing task of learning to cope with such loss, we can’t simply say it must never happen again. We must find common ground to work harder than we ever have before to make sure it doesn’t.

Scripps Howard News Service


Discussion | 38 comments

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  • rlw895December 18, 2012 - 12:22 am

    How about an excise tax on guns, ammo, and other gun-related paraphernalia to be earmarked for mental health services for all Americans in need? That’s a start. Then we can commission studies to try to figure out what’s different about our culture, where gun violence is so prevalent, and other otherwise similar countries where it’s not. We know it’s not only because guns are so available here, because a determined killer can certainly overcome that obstacle, thinking of the Norway shootings. The fact is, people in other countries are simply not as motivated to kill the way we do. Equally deranged people there find other outlets. At least I think they do. Do we have more deranged people, or is our type of derangement different is some way? It’s complicated, the answers are not obvious, and it’s worthy of some study by people trained in such matters. There should be a national effort made to understand and develop an action plan that everyone, going in, agrees to follow. We’re good at commissions. Time to form one on the topic and set them to work.

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  • JagDecember 18, 2012 - 6:04 am

    Like it,, Thumbs up

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 10:47 am

    OK, given what the NRA said today, how about that same excise tax instead directed to putting an armed security officer in every public school? But do the commission work first. We're just brainstorming now.

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  • Well then I have a Hericane for you...December 21, 2012 - 10:56 am

    Consider that many of these Publicized attacks (especially Aurora) have been set up and staged as a National Psyops operation. It is often down on a natiional level. In Italy one such operation was code named "Gladio" google Operation Gladio. In the US a general code name in use for a long time is Operation "Helter Skelter".

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  • Should have beenDecember 21, 2012 - 10:58 am

    done on a national level

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  • CD BrooksDecember 18, 2012 - 6:24 am

    Are these attacker’s victims of mental illness or are they committing deliberate defiant acts? It could be both naturally, but those cases cannot be determined until they occur. Where does the hate and anger come from and why has this kind of terror become so prevalent? This issue is so much deeper than why or what for. The problem is the availability of assault type weapons and media driven sensationalism for these crimes. It is scary to think we have young adults planning such atrocious acts so they can duplicate the images they see in video games. It is even scarier thinking they might just want their lousy “fifteen minutes” and never thought past the ugliness they were about to perpetrate on society. Then you consider the time involved for planning and the resources they accumulated for their arsenal and at that point, you realize this is too easy to accomplish. There is no way of knowing how many are out there right now in the hands of unscrupulous dealers and unstable individuals. I don’t know the answers but one thing is certain, as long as there are avenues for acquiring assault weapons and too few regulations preventing their production, availability and sale, they will be used again for the same sinister purpose.

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  • BennyDecember 18, 2012 - 7:01 am

    I seldom agree with CD but he's right on. The guns aren't the issue, whether it'd be death by gun, knife or bombs like what Timothy McVie developed, this society is violent and we have to figure the root causes to really address it. How much is it violent TV and movies, video games and the disrespect with have for each other that's causing these outbursts? How could a mother have such a lack of judgement to accumulate an arsenal with a mentally disable kid in the house and on top of that show him how to shoot, it's astonishing?

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  • rtlw895December 18, 2012 - 8:53 am

    We have to be careful not to project what might motivate us (fear, anger, etc.) onto these people. They are not like us. That's why I propose a national study by trained professionals. Like we did for smoking, 9/11, the fiscal crisis. Ironically, because of SuperPacs, etc., the NRA and other single-issue lobbying groups have lost clout. They have a role to play, but right now, they need to get reasonable, join in, and reestablish a place on higher ground.

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  • CD BrooksDecember 18, 2012 - 9:13 am

    Good morning rlw895! It is interesting how quiet the NRA has become. There are many powerful people pushing Obama to do an "end around" on Congress and establish something resembling gun control. This is going to be a difficult but necessary process because the line he has to walk is so thin. I am anxious to see how it shakes out.

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  • rlw895December 18, 2012 - 9:08 am

    I’ve said my peace about a commission and study. Now I’m going to take my turn at speculating. There are many secular purposes of religion, including building a sense of community, socialization, and teaching about morality. Do these killers have that in their lives? I doubt it, or at least usually not. So I think the religious people who say lack of religion in America are right, in a way, for different reasons than they think. It’s not religion so much, but the secular benefits religion provides that our society provides few other ways. Our culture of self-reliance and rugged individualism clashes with "we're all in this together," which should be our national motto now (and I think is a major distinguishing feature between our country, where such mass killings are relatively prevalent, and other, similar countries, where they are not). I can see how someone who is a failure in our tough-guy culture (and it’s almost always guys) might lash out at others using whatever destructive tools at his disposal. Too often those tools are high capacity semiautomatic weapons, but I agree with those who say it doesn’t have to be, it just is in America because they are so widespread here (partly because of that culture—there it is again!). Having such weapons in a home is dangerous to the occupants and the public as well, as demonstrated in this last incident. The kid knew about the guns his mother kept at home. Then he goes to her house one day, steals the guns, murders her with them and heads out to kill a bunch of innocents-squared. Would this have happened if he had to go out and buy the guns and ammo himself? In this case, I don't think so. But in other cases, probably yes. So, we need to push "we're all in this together," and recruit religion to the cause. We also need to educate people about the dangers to themselves and others that come from keeping guns at home. The general rule probably should be, Don’t do it!

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  • CD BrooksDecember 18, 2012 - 9:19 am

    My views on god are well known here so I won't get carried. A wise man once opined to me that without religion there would probably be chaos. One should draw their own conclusions.

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  • Danny BuntinDecember 18, 2012 - 7:02 pm

    Their might be chaos CD, but it will be on a personal level with most. No hating because the man with the biggest hat tells you to hate. The usual chaos over commerce will always be there, so we will still send children to fight for the wealthy.

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  • All Staged Attacks?December 18, 2012 - 8:57 pm

    911 was an inside job.....Oklahoma the Federal Building was an inside job, with McVeigh set up as the patsy, his bomb could not have caused that much damage, there were other bombs preplanted in the Federal Building...The Aurora shooting was staged, this one probably was also. These staged shootings are part of a PsyOps program........Consider that all major countries have developed sophisticated PSYOPS programs such as those described below. Consider also that governments sometimes use PSYOPS technology to deceive their own people in order to achieve certain military or strategic objectives. Learn about Operation Northwoods as one powerful example. If you want to avoid being deceived and to be informed of how public opinion is sometimes manipulated by government, read the below article and explore our Mind Control Information Center. By informing ourselves and spreading the word, we can and will build a brighter future for us all. google...Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) Described in Washington Post***********http://www.wanttoknow.info/060123psyops......or google Preparation for Martial Law

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  • Danny BuntinDecember 18, 2012 - 10:00 pm

    The documentary "The Century of the Self" is a great history of the last 100 years on how to approach dealing with people through psychological philosophy, carried out by business and government. It should be on youtube, if you are interested.

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  • rlw895December 19, 2012 - 3:57 pm

    IF we are going to be a nation that sanctifies the right to bear arms despite ever-growing advances in personal armament, then we need to do something to avert senseless shootings like this and to prepare ourselves for the consequences when our efforts have fallen short. I prefer we become a nation that does not sanctify the right to bear arms so much. But realistically, we’re not likely to change. So we need to do something else. We need to change the gun culture much like we changed the smoking culture. It takes patience and understanding, but in the end, it will get finished by a strong hand.

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 19, 2012 - 4:52 pm

    RLW: Ok. Just what in the he.. is "the gun culture?" You obviously use it in the pejorative sense--e.g., misguided folks who must be cajoled, contained, isolated from "civilized society" and in the end re-educated so as to fit your idea of a better world. As Obama said--"...so they cling to their guns and their bibles..." Neanderthals, really. Not worthy of breathing our air. Hmmmm? Well, when some crack head breaks into my home in the middle of the night intent upon stealing to support his habit, or who knows what, I intend to have more than my deek in my hand--if you get my drift. Does that make me a candidate for a re-education camp, or 12 step gun-cessation program? If so, mark me absent.

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  • rlw895December 20, 2012 - 2:11 am

    Tom: Reasonable question. And before you go all postal on me, let me define what I mean by the term “gun culture.” It stems from our history as a nation that relatively recently carved itself out of a wilderness (though the natives naturally did not see it so—the Europeans who came here naturally did). Guns were well in existence then. They were a big part of the European success. And it wasn’t really European success; it was English success. England, where more than just about any other country at the time, free men enjoyed free-dom, including the right to have arms. America was a land of opportunity for the industrious, adventurous, non-conformists, risk-takers, and rugged individualists. Guns were considered necessary on the frontier, where such characteristics were most valued, for survival, not just for personal and property protection, but for eating too. But the English right to have arms was not for the same reason; it was to ensure the king could not ban arms from some subjects and not others (Catholics vs. Protestants, notably). In that sense, the English right to bear arms was to protect against the sovereign overreaching in a way that put freedom and liberty at risk. So we got the Second Amendment, with a focus on this latter reason, but which naturally covered the first reason as well. Our gun culture, therefore, is woven of two strands, one from the practical necessity of self-preservation (and sometimes aggression) on our frontier (which lasted for centuries) and the other from the more theoretical legal necessity of deterring the “sovereign” (our government) from overreaching. The American frontier experience is so ingrained in our national character; it permeates our literature, movies, and television—every way of telling a story. Guns have mythic appeal to Americans, borne of these stories, long after the practical frontier necessity for them has ended. And we are therefore reluctant to regulate them even absent Second Amendment arguments. But then throw in the legal weight of the Second Amendment, written for a different reason, and you have another, special hindrance to regulation. So that’s our gun culture: We love personal possession guns, way beyond the need to protect ourselves, our loved ones, or our property. Reasonable regulation is stymied by a powerful mix of politics and the Second Amendment. The result is a lot of people in America have guns who probably shouldn’t, and they have guns of types they shouldn’t. After over 230 years of living under and with the U.S. Constitution with no real problem with the government getting so out of hand it can’t be reeled back with elections, we still adhere to the English-derived Second Amendment as necessary for our internal peace. Only, because we are Americans, we interpret the Second Amendment broadly to satisfy our love of guns. The result is lots of guns in circulation among people who we would prefer not have them, and, predictably, lots of gun violence.

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 20, 2012 - 3:36 am

    RLW: Good summary of the "gun culture" from your perspective. My reaction probably was mostly driven by the day's accumulation of media attention to this tragic turn of events and the inevitable aftermath--public frustration taken out on law abiding gun owners , criminals and the insane folks all as one. I would recommend that every law abiding gun owner obtain a copy of the book "After You Shoot," by Alan Korwin. It will probably remove any lingering tendency to romanticize the days of the "wild, wild west" from responsible folks minds.

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  • rlw895December 20, 2012 - 12:04 pm

    Tom: My point is there are so many unique aspects of our history and culture, we have a peacetime gun violence problem against innocent people here and now like no time or place on earth. The complexity of our causes will require some thought to sort out. But I believe the solution will be to take to heart the “we’re all in this together” message, and to show care for each other as Americans. If someone really cared for these shooters, it’s unlikely they would have ended up where they did. In that regard, I believe the country should be the caregiver of last resort. A good national health system is a step in that direction. But so is creating spaces and institutions for socialization (beyond family and religious organizations, which remains hugely important). We are going through a period when many, many Americans are stressed. That is both exacerbating the problem and making it more difficult to come together to explore sustainable solutions. I understand the political necessity to propose legislation right off, but I don’t view that a sustainable—yet, anyway. There needs to be a meeting of people of good will from all “sides” of this issue to take a hard unbiased look at how we got here and, agreeing on those facts first, what to do about it.

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 20, 2012 - 2:11 pm

    RLW: Well said. Now, the reality is this: The president has appointed Joe Biden to come up with recommendations on solving this complex issue no later than January, 2013. Joe Biden? January of 2013? You can see the problem. I feel sorry for the pro-Second Amendment people at the table (if, indeed, there are any--think Obamacare deliberations). Any pro-gun advocacy (i.e., attempts to have a balanced outcome) will be labeled "pro-murder of innocent children" by Biden and his crew. Or at least the media. Again, I say "no" to the ownership of military-style assault weapons (as we know them today). Not optimistic about the chances of a balanced, well-thought-out solution in this political environment, though.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 12:57 am

    Thanks, Tom. Yes, I think what Obama is doing is either a mistake or a political calculation. It's hard to believe the community-organizer-in-chief doesn't "get" this, so I have to conclude that he has decided to go for the political points rather than a sustainable solution. It may be for the Republicans and the NRA to make the first move to a sustainable solution. There is no need for them to participate in the Biden commission if it's not a serious effort to propose a sustainable solution, or steps that will lead to a sustainable solution. And I don’t see how it can be that if it moves so fast. There is a political need to move fast, but it doesn’t have to be what Obama does. He should make it clear that he is going to propose legislation, but then hold back for a commission report in about a year. He may lose some political capital by not being more “resolute,” but he has political capital to spend. And in the end, his legacy will be how well he was able to get people to absorb the “we’re all in this together” model for how we behave in America. This incident provides Obama a near perfect opportunity to show what he can do. I’m amazed and disappointed it appears he is going to let this opportunity pass by.

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 21, 2012 - 8:51 am

    RLW: I hope the NRA's press conference offers something worthwhile. Should be interesting, no matter what. They may have to throw some gun manufacturers under the bus. If they do, that will show how worried they are.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 10:55 am

    Well, the NRA did offer something worthwhile; they admitted there is a problem that their previous positions were not adequate to address. Let's put the "securing officer in every public school" solution up on the wall and keep going! Maybe that's the price of keeping our gun culture as it is. It will be immensely expensive, and not totally effective, but it's a concrete, serious proposal, IMO. The Biden Commission should take it under consideration.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 10:56 am

    That should have been "security officer."

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  • CD BrooksDecember 21, 2012 - 9:12 am

    Morning all! The NRA just called for armed police officers to be posted in every American school to stop the next killer "waiting in the wings.” There are currently police at many schools although I don’t if they’re armed? I don't think that is unexpected? It is however, a reactionary impulse and given the nature of a criminal mind, IMO just puts another individual between them and their ultimate "goal." Is this the solution? Hopefully as many of you suggested, they will mix in the psychological and other practical studies.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 11:02 am

    Good comment, CD. Let's take the NRA suggestion as part of brainstorming. Now is not the time to judge, but rather to throw a bunch of ideas out. The NRA probably doesn't see it that way, but so be it. Biden should control the process. Let's see how good he is. He should take all the time he needs. If he defies the president and says it will take 6 months to a year to do properly--no January legislative proposal--I will be impressed.

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 21, 2012 - 3:30 pm

    RLW: The NRA is aware that there wil be more than a few additional ideas presented to Biden's commission, and there is no need to go beyond what they presented today. Much like the earlier "stimulus" packages, which were basically a fulfillment of years of Democrat wish lists (aka pork barrel spending), I expect the gun control proponents to have a hey-dey of getting much more than a few common sense laws passed. Once more, the pendulum will swing too far.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 4:01 pm

    You're probably right, Tom. But I'm willing to bet another coffee on it. Seems like inaction is a fair shot, while I'm hoping for action that isn't what you describe.

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 21, 2012 - 5:24 pm

    RLW: I'm always happy to drink free coffee! Most folks do not realize how many draconian gun control laws have been proposed by legislators and other organizations and defeated in the last few years. The time is now right for those proposals to be renewed, and I believe they will be. It would probably surprise the non-gun owner how tight things already are in many states, including ours. Look up the (unbelievably) controversial "Castle Doctrine." Again, I could refer all of us to the book, "Gun Laws of the Fifty States" by Alan Korwin. I need to review it myself.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 7:43 pm

    Tom: I take it when you say "unbelievably," you mean it's difficult to fathom why the "Castle Doctrine" (every man's home is his castle) is controversial. I wasn't aware that it was controversial. Perhaps in some bubbles, but not in any of mine;-). Aren't you overdramatizing a bit? There is no way the Castle Doctrine is going away, though the interpretation might be different for different people. But that's reasonable. The actual law will reflect one of these interpretations.

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 21, 2012 - 8:34 pm

    RLW: In my "bubble" one should not have to defend himself from civil lawsuits after being cleared of criminal wrongdoing under the CA castle doctrine. I did not mean to imply that I thought it was going away. Of course, losing your home and life savings to defend yourself from a civil lawsuit by the perp's family is still better than losing your own life or that of a family member to some midnight intruder intent upon visiting harm on you:-(

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 10:29 pm

    Tom: I suppose that could happen, and probably has. But it hasn't a lot too, I imagine. We have too many plaintiff's lawyers looking for work, that's for sure. Do you have an actual case in mind?

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  • CD BrooksDecember 21, 2012 - 4:15 pm

    TC, I understand your skepticism and we know how out of control things get in this crazy system. I am curious though. Do you believe it is even possible to abolish gun ownership? I read recently where Congress made a steadfast resolution against ever making such a decision. I'm going to say it will never go that far. If they tried that, we'd have the mother of all revolutions!

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  • Tom ChalkDecember 21, 2012 - 4:59 pm

    CD: You might be right about the mother of all revolutions if all privately-owned guns were outlawed here. I don't think it will happen, because gun owners instead will "die the death of a thousand cuts" re: gun control. By the time it reaches a critical juncture, it will be too late for the pro-gun folks (who will be totally unable to defend themselves). Having said that, how in heck did the Aussies allow such a thing to happen to them in that rough-and-ready frontier-loving country? It did happen, though, and I think I will try to find out how, just as a matter of curiosity.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 7:52 pm

    If I may, CD: How did you jump to abolishing gun ownership? That's not what it's going to be. The number of people in the U.S. that want to go that far, at least right now is, what, 5%? Obama and Biden are way too moderate for that, and they didn't get to where they are by being too far ahead of (or behind) the public will. No successful politician is. No, what we are going to get is goint to be far more "nuanced" than that. People want something to come out of these deaths, but not that.

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  • CD BrooksDecember 22, 2012 - 6:54 am

    Rlw895, yes it was a stretch but I went so far because I wasn’t sure where Mr. Chalk was going. We know that banning guns altogether won’t happen, but when he said “the pendulum will swing too far,” I felt he presented valid concerns and I just wanted to understand how far he thought it might go. I hope there is a lot of discussion going forward and I sincerely hope the media is involved. Electronic media and “journalistic integrity” is or should be under the microscope as they play an integral and frankly negative role in these events, the First Amendment notwithstanding. And no, before any of you jump me, I am NOT challenging the First Amendment!

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 8:02 pm

    I can't help but reflect on how Obama handled DADT. He took time and did it well. It's sustainable now. So he knows how to do this. Maybe he really doesn't know yet what his position should be (is it "evolving?"). Has he ever said, specifically, what he wants to do (unlike DADT)? I don't think so.

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  • rlw895December 21, 2012 - 9:33 pm

    Reflecting some more on this issue and its history, I’m going to speculate that the Founders placed the Second Amendment where it is because it’s related to self-protection of not only life and property, but all the freedoms specified in the First Amendment, in particular the free exercise of religion. That’s what gave rise to the English right to have arms in the first place, and it’s that right that’s the source of the Second Amendment. If the king were to ban arms to all Protestants (a real risk to Englishmen in the late 17th Century with James II), given the religious wars and persecutions of the time, all of Protestant England was at risk of losing everything. Their numbers (a vast majority) would not help them. That fear carried over to the colonies, later states, in the 18th Century. Now, over 230 years later from our adoption of the “necessary” Second Amendment, we have found elections and politics have really worked for us; OUR numbers DO help! In fact, they’re decisive. Plus we have given definition of our rights largely to the courts over the executive, and, while that’s not actually a constitutional requirement, no one is about to change that now. Letting the executive define our rights as well as protect them (like a king) is where the real risk lies to our freedom. (That’s why I got so POed watching the Bush/Cheney CEO-like “strong executive” run roughshod over the Bill of Rights; and then Americans didn’t turn them out in 2004. I started questioning whether we were worthy of our Constitution anymore.) We should now realize that the risk of the government keeping arms out of the hands of a class of Americans (excepting perhaps children, criminals, and the mentally incompetent) is nil. The Founders, if given a chance to amend the Constitution today, probably would keep the Second Amendment, but they would be clearer as to its specific purpose so that activist courts could not read it so expansively. If my speculation is correct, or at least accepted as correct, it’s the type of foundation that the Biden commission should establish to inform whatever it decides to propose, whether legislation or a program. That’s why this should take some time. Quality time.

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