Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who do you trust to carry arms?


By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist


It has been said that the second amendment was poorly written because it did not clearly and explicitly spell out gun rights and limitations, but sometimes less is more.  It forces us to think.

The sign in the Kuala Lumpur airport notifies new arrivals that possession of a gun carries a mandatory death sentence.  My cab driver begins small talk asking me about why I need to own so many guns.  He has a good question and a preexisting impression of Americans.

Violence will be prevented when everyone is armed, but why does everyone need to be armed?  Is it because we have allowed ourselves to become victims?  Is the slippery slope uphill, leading to ever more firepower and fear?

We experience what we create.  Guns cause terror, change our feelings, rewire our brains, and reshape our behavior, creating division and distance between our hearts.  Besides hunting and defense, they are also about the culture war, judgment, justice, and political paralysis.

Originalism believes that our divinely inspired Constitution must not be changed.
It was Thomas Jefferson, who in a letter to James Madison on September 6, 1789 wrote, “No society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law.  The earth belongs always to the living generation … Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years.  If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”

The Constitution is a living document showing how God acts in history.  If we had not amended the Constitution, women would not be able to vote.

In the eighteenth century, the majority of people could not afford the muzzle loaders that were the state of the art then.  No one owned high-capacity, rapid-fire arms and there was no National Guard.

The Second Amendment may have been a work of the Southern states, intended to prevent Congress from disarming the militia that the South needed to control the slaves.  The states have their rights, but private militia, vigilantism, and personal ownership of the weapons of war for vicious politics and revolutionary insurrection are treason and in no way embraced by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  It is not logical to claim an extra-legal right of revolution within our government while claiming protection by it.  In America, change takes place by means of our peaceful political process, not by murder of our government leaders.  The only contrary example was the Civil War.

Did the second amendment refer to collective or individual gun ownership and what was “well regulated”?  In the beginning, courts stopped short of codifying an individual right independent of participation in a militia.  The militia was to suppress, not cause revolution.  Self-protection came under criminal law.

The individual rights interpretation of the Constitution first appeared in a 1960 student paper, The Right to Bear Arms:  A Study in Judicial Misinterpretation.  NRA and gun industry backlash following the assassination of President Kennedy defeated gun control proposals and supported Constitutional interpretations that would be profitable to them.

The first professional effort came in 1965 from a lawyer named Robert Sprecher, and was published by the American Bar Association.  His arguments were a litany of quotes, pulled out of context, from dozens of sources going all the way back to Plato.  The trend in America since 1990, in spite of the 1993 Brady Law background check and five day waiting period, and the 1994 assault weapons ban, has been toward increases in gun ownership and decreases in regulations.  Today the individual right for self-protection and hunting is recognized, but the courts have not denied gun regulations and the debate continues.

In wild-west Arizona, concealed carry requires no knowledge or ability and no permit or training.  We even have an official state gun.

Carrying a gun provides the possibility of protection, but it also ups the ante, escalating every confrontation into a potential life and death dance.  Professionals learn from training and experiences that they don’t forget.  They know that every situation is a first lesson because it has never happened before.

Common Sense
Who do you trust to carry arms?  When the law allows us to stand our ground without obligation to avoid violence, are we revealing or creating mankind’s nature?  The way we treat people is the way they will treat us.

When there are accidental killings using a double-action revolver, we must consider that bumping the hammer cannot cause an accidental discharge.  The cartridges are visible in the cylinder, not hidden within the chamber of an automatic pistol.  The double-action trigger pull is long and hard, not accidental.

When we hear of the Blade Runner’s fearful, accidental killing of his girlfriend by shooting through a closed bathroom door at an unknown target, we become befuddled.  When I hear target practice at night, and remember the people who shot up my campsite, hidden in the trees, from a moving vehicle, I am bewildered.  I have seen irresponsible target practice off the edge of the rim where there was no back stop, no knowledge of where a missed shot might go.

Most people are empathetic and responsible, but we need to recognize ignorance and irresponsible conscienceless individuals.

My grandfather, born in 1875, began his career in law enforcement as a military policeman, serving in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War.  A crack shot policeman and detective, he had killed five men in gun battles.  Attacked from behind, he almost lost his life in one of them.  My grandmother described wounded gangsters seeking protection and refuge in my grandfather’s house in the middle of the night and of cooking breakfast for apprehended murderers in handcuffs.

His weapon was a Colt Officer’s model 38 special revolver with a six-inch barrel.  It had been worked on by a gunsmith, had a single-action hair trigger, butter-smooth double action, McGivern bead sight, and fired a pointed, full-metal jacket, armor-piercing bullet.  He carried it under his arm in a front-draw harness and it was with him at all times everywhere.

You cannot become a good pistol shot without a lot of regular practice.  Professionals get that.   Most of us cannot afford the ammo or the time required for proficiency.  You also have to be trained and experienced to know how to react under life and death pressure.

We moved to Arizona in the days before air-conditioning and television.  When the Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid, and TV westerns came, he thought it was silly, how they capriciously shot as though slinging the bullet out of the gun barrel with an overhead motion like throwing a baseball, and they never ran out of bullets or hit anything.  Flimsy boards would stop a 45 caliber bullet, protecting the cowboy who fired around the corner behind them.

Today, the movie lesson is about simultaneously rapidly firing two automatic pistols held sideways in either hand without aiming.  The lack of penetration, blood, and gore still persists in TV depiction of gun killings.

On our farm, we shot gophers and deer.  Though assault rifles are “neat”, you would have been laughed out of town for buying one.  The desired gun was a long, heavy-barrel, bolt-action rifle with a telescopic sight, and we believed in aiming.

We can see beneath the thin outer veneer of gun policy, that everyone and everything is interconnected.  We can choose to live in fear instead of loving harmony, cooperation, and reverence for life, but living is choices, accepting uncertainty, and risk.

The birth of new life, completely formed and perfect, so finally sudden, is a miracle.  We were born to protect our children and keep them safe even when it means sacrificing our own lives.  When people risk their lives for a stranger, or commit themselves to a higher purpose beyond their individual existence, it testifies to the same undeniable reality, that all life is valuable and everything is connected.  Our disconnection from one another is at the root of traumatic violence.

I was all alone quail hunting.  As I cleared the top of a hill, I came upon a family of Javelina feeding.  I had heard that they could not see well, so I decided I would see how close I could get to them without being discovered.  There was mom and a bunch of cute little pink pigs.  When they noticed me, they let out a squeal and ran away, but pop charged me, stopping about a dozen feet away, while making threatening sounds and movements.  I aimed my shotgun at him.

Then the strangest thing happened.  Our consciousness became as one, connected by a shared instinct, more than physical proximity, time, and coincidence.  My gun had only two rounds, so I would not fire a warning shot.  I said to the pig, if you hurt me, or maybe even come too close, I will kill you.  The pig said to me, my family is none of your business, get out of here!

We began our dance of life and death.  While keeping the shotgun aimed, I slowly stepped backward a dozen paces.  The hog advanced while continuing to throw a fit.  We did this a half dozen times before the angry hog concluded that it had fulfilled its duty, turned tail and ran away.

What happened was both of heart and mind, and of a courageous pig defending its family.  In Native American belief, spirituality is not just for the good of mankind, but for the good of all living things.  When all life is considered equal, we are no more or no less than anything else.

In science, we know that there are different ways of looking at the same thing.  We transform reality into different structures and pick the ways that are easiest to see and understand.

God as ultimate reality is an attempt to transform omnipresence into the material.  It reflects the fact that our understanding always comes back to measurable examples at a time and place that are personal, relative, and that depend on the concrete situation.  This is situational.  What is true for you might not be true for someone else and what is true for someone else might not be true for you.  Lacking absolute truth, we turn to personal responsibility and individual decision.  Those who have the absolute truth must realize that a room full of people will have different examples of it.  When the truth is not completely formed, our choice between wrong and wrong must be made responsibly.  We are each different, following our own paths through life.  The scenario is not always as expected, black or white, good or evil.  It is not a clear matter of the bad guys versus the good guys, and not the capricious killing depicted in violent games, television, and movies.

Public Guns
So, are more guns the solution?  Life is the most important thing.  Who will you choose to dance life and death, judgment, and justice?  What kind of America are we becoming?  When people instead of guns kill, we must turn to the people. 

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