It’s past time to look for real solutions to U.S. gun violence

Austin Shooting

I’ve been a gun owner and a shooter for almost as long as I can remember. We grew up with guns, starting with BB guns and then up through sporting arms. For several years, I wrote freelance articles on the side for dozens of regional and national sporting publications in the ‘hook & bullet’ genre and I’ve hunted from Saskatchewan to the Mexican border. I hung it up a number of years back, but I’m not part of the anti-gun lobby; not by a long shot. Occasionally, I still head out to the range.

I also don’t believe that the Second amendment is about hunting. That wasn’t the concern when it was written. The purpose was to leave arms in the hands of the people against the potential for being enslaved by an oppressive government. Anyone who reads the Constitution quickly realizes that the document is not a list of rights given to people by the government. Instead, it is a list of limitations on government from the perspective of people who saw the need to vest ultimate control in the hands of the citizenry.

Having said all of that, I think it is long past time for a frank and open discussion about gun violence in this country and what we, as a society, ought to be doing about it. And if the answer continues to be the same old National Rifle Association bullpucky about trying to say that the founders meant to anticipate all of the technological improvements in firearms that have occurred over the past 220 years, then that is going to be the wrong answer.  The founders mostly understood things like flintlock, muzzle-loading single-shot weapons as the “arms” for which they were retaining rights in the Bill of Rights. That’s what people had and that’s what they knew.

Anything that matters in this area of the law is going to be a hassle for people like me. I understand that. There are a lot of things that are a hassle. Take a flight, attend an appearance of the President, go to a major sporting event or try to do a lot of other things. Times have changed since I was a kid.  They’ve changed even more since 18 years before Abraham Lincoln was born and the Bill of Rights was being enacted. And while the founders did some pretty good work, they left some work for the people of this country in succeeding generations to clean up long after they were finished, too – (little things like women having the right to vote or dealing with slavery, as a couple of examples.)

Like many others, I read the barrage of campaign mailings from the NRA in the last election. It provided some great guidance to know who that group was supporting and opposing, (although not necessarily in the same manner that these folks were intending.) The NRA sends out candidate questionnaires filled with loaded questions and then tries to help elect and re-elect legislators who will be just as unreasonable as they are. They are successful often enough to keep them at it.

Maybe the answer is different for Wyoming than it is for Connecticut. Maybe we need to look at this provision of our Constitution and alter it, as we have done in the past when we found things that no longer reflected our needs and values.  There won’t be a silver bullet. But if we want to solve 21st Century problems, we can’t continue to rely upon the NRA and its unbending, never-ending insistence on the same old 18th Century response. And we can’t rely on legislators who pledge allegiance to the NRA in the face of the carnage we continue to experience as a result of our failure to deal with firearms violence in this country. Those who steadfastly refuse to be part of the solution are part of the problem.

JR

A timeline of mass shootings since Columbine:

http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/14/1337221/a-timeline-of-mass-shootings-in-the-us-since-columbine/ 

Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough: “It is time for Congress to put children before deadly dogmas. It’s time for politicians to start focusing more on protecting our schoolyards than putting together their next fundraiser.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/17/joe-scarborough-newtown-shooting_n_2315100.html

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9 Responses to “It’s past time to look for real solutions to U.S. gun violence”

  1. Roger Zimmermann Says:

    I fully agree with everything you said in the blog. However, we can’t dump the entire problem in the lap of the NRA (although they are a huge contributor). We need to embrace this issue as a systemic cultural problem. Hollywood, news media, video games, parents etc. and the like promote a culture of violence. Watch (rather don’t watch) the prime time evening shows both on cable and the regular networks. Violence is revered, promoted, glorified to the point that it seems to be the norm in this country. How many killings have a young person seen every week on TV? The shows are getting dramatically and graphically worse every year. The video games that a large portion of our youth are playing are incredibly vicious. Blood spurting out from the victims is common place. Pain, torture, evil is the main theme of much of todays media whether news or entertainment. Is it any wonder that these things are happening? Wake up people and realize what you are supporting by buying these games, films, video, etc. Just as we did with political candidates, we need to be putting our money where our mouth is.

  2. As far as the “carnage”, spectacular mass shootings happened once or twice a year for the last 3 decades. It is their rarity that attracts so much attention.

    Of approximately 44 million gun owners, 99.97% of us do not murder anyone. We object at being accused of being considered potential suspects.

    Regarding our Constitution and the attempt to limit the central government, the 18th century wording may be dated but you correctly understand the intention. Our Wisconsin constitution added Article I, section 25 in the 1990s which says our citizens have the right to keep and bear arms for “any lawful purpose”. Protecting our rights is what the government is supposed to do.

    • So, how often would things like this have to happen to make you think that perhaps we may not have an adequate approach — (since one or twice a year doesn’t seem to be enough?)

      • There are already laws against killing people and bearing arms in a government building. Who has an idea to limit the bad guys without limiting the vast majority of good guys?

    • Bill Trarbach Says:

      Mr. Maas: 99.97% are not the issue. That is a great point. However, if you will allow that this is a mental health issue, will you agreee that the remaining point (fill in the % of disturbed you so choose)extreme minority have to be checked?

    • Doug Diny Says:

      Seems like the perfect issue for states rights. California values don’t equal Wisconsin values….. etc .

  3. Roger Zimmermann Says:

    Mr Maas overlooks the fact that every day in the USA 31 people are killed with guns. The old argument about the second amendment isnt what is at stake here. Stop trying to hide behind that but instead get on board and be part of the solution instead of always claiming “guns dont kill people, people kill people” . I havent heard one constructive suggestion from the “gun owners” on how to decrease the slaughter of people in the country. The NRA is a powerful organization and could use its might for good instead of being in constant denial. Einstein’s quote seems apt here: “If we always do what we’ve always done we will always get what we’ve always got”. We can solve these issues if we stop putting our heads in the sand.

  4. Roger Zimmermann Says:

    Sadly, I am beginning to think that Larry Wilmore is right in saying if Sandy Hook wasn’t enough to make us do something about the violence in the USA nothing will. This latest is just another event that will be forgotten. Fox News is already putting its spin on it. Politicians won’t have the will to take this on. The apathy of the public sadly has its own inertial mass. I would love to be more optimistic but it is very hard to do. Mountains need to be moved instead of Sisyphus pushing the rock up again and again.

  5. I’ve never seen a gun be violent before. I have seen untrained people use a gun when they shouldn’t. We all have seen what terrorist can do with a gun. eliminate the terrorist and train the untrained, issue solved.

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