The tremendous tragedy of the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, the one in the Aurora, Colo., theater, and others from recent years, (with the exception of the one in Fort Hood, Texas, which we aren’t allowed to talk about) have brought out herds of those who believe that the easiest way to solve difficult problems is by sacrificing American liberties at the altar of expedient politics. Before the dust settles, Americans can expect to have lost more of their 2nd Amendment rights.
In modern America, how much does this matter, really? Americans have already surrendered so many of their rights and responsibilities to government, especially the federal government. It seems unlikely that a few more chips taken from what is left of our 2nd Amendment rights will even be missed. We will just go buy as much ammo and as many guns as we can, and maybe renew our subscription to the NRA — an organization which has let gun owners down in the past and is in the process of doing so again — and settle in to adjust to the new normal.
The right to keep and bear arms was written into the Constitution as defense against government tyranny. While it is not uncommon for people to state that they should be allowed their guns for sporting uses such as hunting or target shooting, such arguments simply water down the justification for the right to “keep and bear arms” in an attempt, often, to appear non-threatening. These uses are not relevant to the 2nd Amendment. It matters little what civilized use you have for your firearms, the right must be defended for its purpose of keeping Americans safe from government, and when necessary, their fellow citizens. This is the only legitimate approach to defending our 2nd Amendment rights as citizens, rather than as children begging permission to own something the government is certain we will “shoot out an eye” with.
Our politicians will take our rights from us with the laws they pass. Do we make it our business to understand what they believe about the right to keep and bear arms? (Hint — if they talk about hunting or skeet shooting, they don’t get it.) If every gun owner was willing to hold his or her politicians accountable to the 2nd Amendment, at the very least the laws they pass would be designed to be real solutions, not just nets cast to hopefully catch something. Sadly, there is already history to show that gun owners don’t defend our collective right.
Perhaps the biggest problem gun owners have in protecting their rights is the “reasonable solution.” Many of the “reasonable solutions” which put laws on the books have succeeded on stripping citizens of their right to defend themselves who would not be a danger to society had they been allowed to retain the right. One of the “reasonable solutions” to mass gun violence is universal background checks for anyone buying a gun. This one suggestion connects the 2nd Amendment to others, such as the 4th Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure, and the 5th Amendment against self-incrimination. How will government know if you have either purchased or sold a firearm if they don’t have accurate records of what you own? What if you don’t want to give that information up? Will you be willing to use your firearm to defend your other rights? Is that what you want? Will the “...cold dead fingers” crowd help defend their neighbors against their guns being taken or their gun rights stripped away? Say what you will, I say they will not.
So what about public safety? How many people are hurt or killed with automobiles every year? How many of them are children? And yet the idea of taking driving away from anyone is considered anti-American. We give new drivers public education. Why do we judge the deadly hazards of automobiles differently than guns? (Automobiles are registered to raise revenue, not keep track of who owns what.) The subject about safety falls flat on its face when compared to the other hazards we accept the consequences for in modern society.
We could, of course, simply choose to continue to give up all our rights to the government so that we no longer need firearms to defend them, right? Or Americans can defend their gun rights, as well as all the others required to make American society the envy of the world, by taking responsibility for them. Rights and responsibilities are inseparable but they cannot be applied piecemeal. Either we defend our rights and responsibilities — all of them — or we let them go to government. There is no middle ground. And the 2nd Amendment cannot be defended by stockpiling ammo and guns. So choose — carefully.
Mitchell is a blue-collar, public-school educated resident of North Ogden and a former resident of several other states, including Arizona.