Yes, we have this debate every time some sick bastard buys some guns and shoots innocent people, and I have no doubt that this episode of the the debate will end the same way it always does:
With each side endlessly repeating their usual bullet points and then getting bored and moving on.
And then in another week or month or year, some other sick bastard will buy himself a cache of weapons and slaughter more innocent people, and then we’ll have the debate again.
And so on…
And that’s understandable, if frustrating–especially for those whose family members and friends are the ones who are killed.
For better and worse, we do have a constitutional “right to bear arms” in this country, and it should take a broad consensus to amend the Constitution. And, yes, it probably does make sense for us to have at least some right to bear some arms, even if having the right to buy quasi-machine guns like the one used in the Colorado massacre seems ludicrous. And there’s a vast difference between bearing some arms in, say, Wyoming, and bearing them in New York City, where the population density is a tad higher, and so forth. So, of course, this is going to be a contentious and impassioned debate.
But can we at least agree on one thing?
Can we at least agree that, since 1791, when the Second Amendment was ratified, the country’s circumstances have changed?
In 1791, for example:
- There were only 3.9 million Americans
- The “arms” we gave ourselves the right to bear were vastly less powerful–namely they were single-shot muskets that had to be manually loaded with powder and ball for each shot, versus today’s semi-automatic assault weapons that spray 50-60 high-calibre bullets per minute
- It was legal to own slaves in some parts of the country (Constitutionally permissible behaviour that, fortunately, changed)
- “America” didn’t extend west of the Mississippi River (and, really, it was only the 13 colonies)
- Indians still attacked occasionally
- We hunted a lot of our food
- “States” really were separate countries in those days–it took months to travel from one end of the country to the other
- The “frontier” (and many other parts of the country) was essentially lawless: Citizens had to protect themselves, because no one else was around to do it (Now, most states have well-armed police forces, etc.)
- And so on…
Basically, can we at least agree that giving ourselves the unfettered right to buy, sell, and own whatever kinds of weapons we want might have made more sense in 1791 than it does today–and, therefore, that it’s a bit unfair to couch this debate in terms of “defending the Constitution” and/or trying to figure out what the Framers meant by “a well-regulated militia”?
I mean, do folks really think that if the “Framers” had seen what happened in that Colorado movie theatre last week, they still would have written the Second Amendment the way they did–with no qualifications?Yes, this point is academic, because the Second Amendment is what it is.
But can we all at least agree that it’s a bit, if nothing else, outdated?
Or are we all totally cool with any old sick bastard being able to buy as many quasi-machine guns as he or she wants?
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