A year or so ago at a town hall, I asked Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., whether he supported the right of civilians to own and carry surface-to-air missile launchers.
“Bob,” he said, a little miffed, “You’re trying to drag me into absurdity.”
He seemed to recognize the right to keep and bear arms might have some limits. Still, he knows he has to survive well-armed primaries and right-wing hysteria. So, he has to choose his words carefully around here.
A common notion is firearms make us all safer. Well, according to a March 2018 BBC article, of the top 10 gun-owning countries, U.S. citizens own the most per capita … by far. In Europe, Switzerland and Finland have the most firearms per person. However, U.S. citizens own twice that of each.
The U.S. also owns the highest rate of firearm murder and manslaughter in the developed world. In 2014 (the latest summary I found) BBC reported approximately 36,000 gun deaths in our country: 63 percent were suicides; 32 percent homicides. The remaining 5 percent were accidents and military deaths. (tinyurl.com/y8896kq2) That was four years ago, of course, but things haven’t changed much.
As to mass shootings in this “the greatest country on earth”: In March, Mother Jones magazine reported “... at least 98 in the past 35 years — and most of the killers got their guns legally.” Almost all shooters have been male. The latest, in San Bruno Calif., an apparent exception. (tinyurl.com/y7he6s87) Statistically, compared to other categories, mass shootings are relatively rare. They are also horrible and sickening.
The Second Amendment was ratified in 1791. It was a time of distrust by founding fathers in any standing army, depending instead on the government “calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.” (Constitution, Article 1, Sec. 8). That is the “well-regulated” militia referenced in the Second Amendment. Well, today we have (and have had for a long time) a standing Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. Plus a well-regulated National Guard.
In 1791, women couldn’t legally vote. That remained true until 1920. Black Americans were counted as three-fifths of a person — and couldn’t vote. The Civil War “freed the slaves” and the 15th Amendment ratified in 1870 “theoretically” gave them voting rights. But not until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did that right become real. Some American “Indians” won voting rights in 1928. Others were denied that right for decades. New Mexico was the last state to approve Native American votes, in 1962.
Jerry Moran and I don’t always agree. But we do agree that the Second Amendment doesn’t allow private citizens to own and carry surface-to-air missile launchers. That would be absurdity. The right for non-military personnel to keep and bear arms is for self-protection, not unlimited. I think we agree there, too. Incidentally, I’m a gun-owner.
However, in these — what I’d call not just angry but paranoid times — there’s a paranoia percolating, often fueled by talk-radio and social media conspiracy theorists, about concentration camps being built in the hinterlands, about the New World Order confiscating firearms, about a Sharia Law take-over. For those citizens, the Second Amendment has no limits.
Sen. Moran is right about missile launchers. I just wish he and others with political clout would put assault-style rifles like AR-15’s or AK-47’s and handguns with high-capacity magazines in the same absurdity category.
Oh. “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” You’ve heard that, right?
Well, some guns used by some people kill more people more quickly at a more convenient distance for the person doing the killing. Banning such weapons of war wouldn’t make our problem go away. Neither would universal background checks. Nor would stopping unregulated gun sales. (tinyurl.com/hmz9df5) But those steps would be a positive start, and that’s a helluva lot better than nothing. Ask the surviving kids from Parkland.
Of course, gun manufacturers and their NRA partners will fight such measures. They would lose money. Conspiracy theorists won’t like it either. Their lives would become too boring.
We need reminding: A real democratic republic is a work in progress.
Bob Hooper, a fourth-generation western Kansan, is a former public school teacher who writes from his home in Bogue.