I guess what baffles me, really baffles me about the gun control conversation is the strange disconnect between disparate views of public safety. One side thinks stricter control over weapons is in the public's best interest, while another feels that any infringement on the public's ability to legally obtain weapons is the real risk to public safety. I don't quite get it. I think Family Guy put this argument best when they made a joke about Charlton Heston, then face of the NRA. He was accidentally shot by Joe Swanson in "Love Thy Trophy", who said the safety on the gun was on. In his dying words, Mr. Heston explained that it was his right as an American before collapsing in the street.
I often wondered about the message of that animated scene and how on point it was. It made me wonder, if the real life Charlton Heston had been shot by a mentally unstable person screaming about Allah who had legally obtained an AR-15, what the NRA’s or Republican party’s reaction would have been. Would they have agreed with the animated Charlton saying it was indeed the right of the mentally unstable person to legally obtain a firearm and then use it with unbalanced impunity? Or would they mourn the loss of their spokesperson and attempt to create legislation that would help keep dangerous people from obtaining firearms through comprehensive background checks? Or create a special department within say, the ATF, for the monitoring of weapon licensing for individuals?
I just don’t know what they would do. I know that as a reasonable person, when I see that there is a problem I would like to try and takes steps to correct that problem. It seems pretty simple. I can see that there has to be some balance to it all. I know in this country we are all innocent until proven guilty and no person can deny the rights of another just because they are suspicious about their intentions; although you don’t give a drunk a beer, or crack to an addict and tell them to hope for the best. We do have some level of good judgment we should adhere to. Yet, for some reason, good, sound judgment seems to run contrary to what some of the people want as a matter of law.
That’s why I’m so confused about the arguments about what is public safety? I mean, the Federal Government, through the FDA, had no problem banning all homosexuals from donating blood due to the perceived threat of the spread of AIDS in the 1980’s. They had no problem with it. They didn’t even know for sure how AIDS was spread but they had no problem as a “matter of public safety” to ban all Homosexuals from blood donations. Yet they don’t consider mass shootings a threat to public safety and refuse to take any sensible action about it. I mean, maybe the numbers aren’t there to consider it a public health hazard. Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been 418 people killed in mass shootings. So maybe we haven’t hit an epidemic threshold yet.
What is better for the people of this country? Is it to live in fear of the gun or to take hold of that fear and manage it as a matter of public safety? I’ve made this case before, after nearly every shooting, mass shooting or even individual shooting and nothing has changed. I’ve supported Gun Control Advocacy groups, written to my representation in government and nothing has changed. I’m baffled on what to do next. And I fear that’s just how it is living in America.
A peaceful, intelligent society should be above resorting to firearms to resolve their differences, perceived slights, or in your face insults. A population focused on what really is in the best interest of Public Safety should overcome the self-interest of a few loud voices. Yet, here I am again, back to two differing views of the definition of Public Safety. The Federal Definition of Public Safety is, “Public Safety refers to the welfare and protection of the general public. It is usually expressed as a governmental responsibility. Most states have departments for public safety. The primary goal of the department is prevention and protection of the public from dangers affecting safety such as crimes or disasters. In many cases the public safety division will be comprised of individuals from other organizations including police, emergency medical services, fire force etc.”
So that seems pretty straightforward. And yet again, I’m stymied by the argument that firearms are not a public safety hazard, crazy people are the public hazard or extremist fundamentalists are the public hazard, and that weapons are just tools misused by the crazies. A hammer is a tool designed specifically to drive in nails, firearms are weapons designed to drive ammunition into other people. Sure, you could use a hammer as a weapon, that’s possible, but it’s still specifically a tool. It’s not recommended to use a weapon as a tool for driving in nails or unclogging a sink. Plus there haven’t been 418 mass hammer beatings since 9/11. So let’s say that argument is now moot.
Individual freedoms under the Constitution trump any societal freedoms of the citizenry? I’ve heard that argument before regarding firearms. The right to bear arms is more valued than an individual’s right not to get shot by a lunatic. So maybe that’s the real threat to public safety right there. The perception that the Second Amendment was given to us by Jesus and no one shall ever take it from our cold dead hands. I think I got it. Maybe, in the course of our right to pursue happiness, we might need a tweak to the Second Amendment as it relates to life in the 21st Century. I think as a matter of Public Safety that might be the best course of action.
It was relentlessly repeated to me as youngster that the Constitution is an elastic document and it is not carved in stone. The Constitution can be changed as it has been several times in the course of our young country. Slavery, votes for women, prohibition, the repeal of prohibition, votes for 18 year olds, were all changes made to the Constitution over the course of history. It is possible to adapt and evolve as a country as long as we’re willing to agree on the public safety threat this complicated issue has and actively do something about it.
But what to do? How do we come to a consensus? Where is the middle ground we can all agree on and encourage our elected officials to agree on? What can we do? I wish I knew. I wish we all knew.