By Geoff Woollacott
Nuts with Guns vs Gun Nuts: That little play on words nets out the stalemate this nation has over gun violence and whether the second amendment allows for any restrictions whatsoever. It’s a catchy headline that can come off as caustic. That is not the intention, and hence this background.
I am the son of a woman who suffered from mental illness. I know well the emotional pain of the disease on the afflicted and on the people who love them. A number of family and friends own guns and utilize them to hunt and to protect themselves. I respect and support their right do so. I do not own a firearm.
In 2007, I was on a college tour with my son at Virginia Tech the day of that shooting. The second, larger assault took place in Norris Hall, the building adjacent to the admissions office. We heard gunfire, remaining in lockdown until about noon. Inaccurate news reports came across the television where we were held, upsetting the high schoolers. Released around noon, we walked through a line of idling ambulances to get back to our car. We drove to the next stop on the tour listening to the rising death count on the radio.
In the 1990s I researched the second amendment at length. I spent a lot of time on the phrase “in order to establish a well-regulated militia” over which there are decidedly different viewpoints.
In 1980 as a press advance man for HW Bush, I witnessed how gun issues were taken out of context. HW was asked the same question at many events about his vote in favor of the Gun Control Act of 1968 that banned the interstate shipment of firearm parts used to create the so-called Saturday Night Special handgun. Campaign staff would stand in the back of those events and try to pick out the plant as folks waited in front of microphones to ask their question.
Where do I stand?
- With rights come responsibilities. We can create sensible legislation for background checks that will not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.
- Handgun safety policies should be researched, discussed, and potentially proposed. We have the right to drive a car, for example, and the responsibility to pass a test before being allowed to exercise that right.
- Mental Health privacy has to be balanced against citizen safety. Secure ways to share data solely for the purpose of gun background checks should be discussed and trialed.
- Law enforcement data integrations have to improve. Our Sears Government operates with data silos. Information access is therefore slowed down and vulnerable to operator error in the transmission and rekeying of this information. This is as much bureaucratic resistance to change and a fiefdom mentality as it is a technology modernization issue. The private sector is way ahead of the public sector on this, and lessons can be learned on these operating best practices through public/private cooperation and policy trials.
- I do not profess to have magic answers, nor do I believe any proposal is going to be perfect. I simply know the unyielding resistance to any policy proposals by the NRA and gun lobbyists that leave leaders cowered is a grave disservice to We the People. It is time for responsible, law abiding gun owners to stand up to the extreme factions on their side of this issue causing the stalemate in a Senate held hostage by the two parties.
Hunting and self-defense are not the issue here; protection of We the People from random violence is.
Does any kind of common sense law violate the second amendment?
The exact wording of the 2nd amendment is as follows:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Extreme gun rights advocates believe the 2nd amendment was specifically intended to allow unfettered access to weaponry as a final resort against the state. Having thrown off an oppressive government, this argument goes, the Founders, while establishing the state, were protecting the people from the state itself. The responsibility for the well-regulated militia is in the hands of the people rather than the government who might call up the militia as needed to defend the free state against foreign invasion.
A counter argument with some historic substantiation is simply this. America was broke from having fought the Revolution. The government did not have the money to purchase weapons and had to rely on citizen ownership of such equipment. Citizens needed weapons to hunt and to defend themselves. Not really fair to infringe on a citizen’s right to bear arms in defense of themselves if the government itself was not equipped to provide that defense, either.
The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 provides a precedent
The Whiskey Rebellion was in reaction to a tax imposed by the federal government primarily to pay off war debts assumed by the federal government from the states at Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s urging. Western Pennsylvania took exception, arguing it was taxation without representation.
President George Washington ultimately summoned militias from surrounding states and eastern Pennsylvania to put down the rebellion.
And therein lies the debate over the intent of the 2nd Amendment. To allow citizens to rise up against the state, or to allow the State to call up citizens when needed to defend the state. I believe it was a necessity for a cash strapped new nation to be able to call up its citizens, replete with their personal arms, to defend the state.
The middle path: with rights come responsibilities
Come back to 2022 when we have gun owners turning the weapons on innocent civilians in our land. Not oppressive governments: children, different ethnicities, and just random citizens as a way for the deranged to pursue personal fame and glory in what is often a suicide mission. Come back to 2022 where the firepower of a musket rifle is nothing compared to assault rifles.
Is it fair to require citizens wishing to exercise their right to bear arms to show they know how to operate them safely? Is it fair to say citizens wishing to exercise their right to bear arms have the responsibility to provide tangible evidence of their mental stability by submitting to background checks prior to obtaining a gun?
Have we reached a tipping point?
The definitions of a mass shooting vary, which points to selective use of facts to dramatize or minimize an issue. Incidents as massive as Uvalde and directed at the most innocent among us, our children, triggers renewed interest.
Legislation sits stalled now that closely aligns with popular sentiment. None of the statutes seeks to ban or confiscate guns from law abiding citizens. The legislation calls for background checks and information sharing on mental health between government agencies and health practitioners. An article recently published by The Hill provides a synopsis of these stalled proposals in the Senate. The article states our leaders have not enacted a new piece of handgun legislation in over a decade.
The two-party system is not working.
It’s why I’m running.