In My View

There must be compromise in gun-control changes

Al Baensch /

These pages have been filled with arguments about guns, assault rifles and the Second Amendment. Notably absent has been concern for people, civilized society and common sense.

The Second Amendment reads: “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.”

We need to be aware that constitutional scholars understand this right in the context of militias who owned muskets to secure the state, not necessarily extending that right to every individual. The notion of keeping arms against the state, in defense of the Constitution, is rooted in politically inspired fears. Lost in this misguided thinking is the necessity of compromise in democratic process.

The Constitution makes no provisions for the use of guns against an overreaching government. Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution: “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrection and repel Invasions.” Militias have been replaced by standing militaries, to secure the state against invasion and insurrection, not to overthrow it. Armed insurrection can only violate the Constitution, never uphold it. Peaceful channels are provided to hear and redress grievances.

Does it not seem wiser to invest in active American citizenship, to vote intelligently, to politely but persistently question representatives or officials when needed, but also to accept compromises vital to a healthy democracy meant to serve us all?

Good hunters seek to kill mercifully with a single shot, using weapons optimized to the task. Target shooters also favor specialized guns. None of these resemble military weapons designed for efficient killing of people. The legitimate sport of military shooting can surely live with reasonable restrictions.

“Guns do not kill people, people kill people.” We can be sure that many gun killings would not happen if a gun were not handy. We have to recognize the truth that people, easy access to guns, large magazines and rapid fire combine with cultural, social and medical factors to cause shooting deaths.

Requiring background checks for all gun sales to identify criminal, domestic violence and mental health issues would help to keep guns out of the hands of likely misusers. Gun sport enthusiasts should be proactive with reasonable control measures to protect their sport and society. A forward looking National Rifle Association would join the effort.

Seeking solutions in arming responsible people to shoot the irresponsible ones makes no sense at all. Do we really want to return America to the wild West? Arguments centered on guns and politics miss the mark. How can we justly weigh the lives of children against the rights of gun owners? Are not our lives our most precious possession? What about the people who are robbed of theirs?

Our nation was stained by over 33,000 firearm deaths in 2011, which are expected to surpass automobile deaths in three years. The Wikipedia list of gun deaths in 75 countries rates us No. 11, behind the Philippines, Montenegro, and Paraguay, earning us poor marks as a civilized society. Per 100,000 people, we killed 10.2 that year, our neighbor Canada 2.1, Israel 1.9, Sweden 1.5, Germany and Australia 1.1, and the British shame us with 0.3, or one gun death to our 34.

The availability and killing efficiency of military weapons are serious factors, but people have to decide to aim and pull the trigger. Such deviant behavior is certainly increased by the general pervasiveness of violence in our culture. Any serious effort about reducing gun deaths needs to address violence in our nation on all fronts.

Let us put people first and go forward together with cool heads, warm hearts, common sense and love of country to lessen this stain on our society.

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