Once again, the gun debate in America takes center stage…for about as long as it took 58 people to die on Sunday night. Following that, the outrage and political punditry will subside for a week — two or three at the most — until the next domestic terror attack and mass shooting in the United States.
In the aftermath of Sunday night’s massacre in Las Vegas, the polarized nation and its leaders will swap accusations like day-traders on the exchange floor. The National Rifle Association will open its vault and pump tens of millions of dollars into the political machine to oil the gears. It is a deplorable commentary on America in the 21st century that the funerals and flowers for the deceased will be the aside, rather than the focus.
Even before the politicians and lawmakers begin debating the merits of gun control; Second Amendment advocates are tightening their grips on their assault weapons. They preach the virtues of gun ownership, their rights, and tell stories of hunting with their sons and daughters — when many of them never heft a weapon anywhere except the range. In America, gun ownership has evolved as a tin-badge of honor for weekend warriors, self-imagined vigilantes, end-times soothsayers, and victims of yet-to-be-committed crimes.
There is but one constant and relevant issue in the great American gun debate: It is as divisive and complex an issue as a nation may ever face. It is a wound that has festered on the Constitution for over 200 years. Gun control and gun ownership have almost reached a gangrenous state more destructive than any former rallying cry in our nation’s history. It will not heal until some majority has the courage to remove the bandage in one swift tear — no matter how painful that action may be to either side.
For all our rights and freedoms in America, there are times when the founders have earned our ire. In creating a nation where the guiding principles are forever open to interpretation, the founders have left their progeny the eternally difficult tasks of debate and compromise. With the added distraction of the N.R.A. lobby, legislators delayed gun regulations for so long that the poison of indecision has infected our nation.
The Constitution is a document created out of wisdom and necessity, but it also was conceived in a time of intense fear, trepidation, and uncertainty during the highly charged, volatile, and emotional birth of a nation. The founders, cursed that they may be by modern day proponents and opponents, acted swiftly and with urgency to protect the infant United States of America from every possible threat of her tyrant parent, Great Britain. In doing so, they fell victim to the same plague as so many present-day legislators: reactionary law.
In the framer’s time, the right of gun ownership was a fear-driven concern necessary for the protection of the new nation from any threat of invasion. The North American continent in the 1700s was a savage and foreboding experiment. While Great Britain had an ocean to overcome to reach our shores, it also boasted the largest naval power in the world. Following the Revolutionary War and era of Constitutional Conventions, fear of retaliation and hostile takeover must have weighed heavily every person in America.
Today, the largest invading force that most of America need worry about is the militarized police who invade cities and neighborhoods at the mere hint of protest. It is a force over one million strong and armed with the most technologically advanced weaponry — prepared for a Baghdad scale insurgency. It seems a legitimate concern for even non-gun owners who perhaps want to defend themselves against these invaders in the event of the apocalypse or collapse of democracy. None-the-less, even the police do not need automatic assault weapons with multiple magazines and hundreds of rounds. They do not need to be the killing force that they represent on the streets today.
Our nation has grown to become over-militarized in many respects. The sophisticated weapons held by police demonstrate another flaw in the interpretation of modern gun ownership. Guns that our framers promised to America in the Second Amendment were single shot muskets with the accuracy of a ten-year-old boy at the loo. They were rudimentary and capable of killing and maiming with limited accuracy.
Sunday’s shooter in Las Vegas did not have single-shot rifles. He had, according to early reports, at least ten high-power, highly accurate, semi-automatic and automatic style assault weapons. These are weapons that had Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin witnessed their destruction, may have influenced the founders to reconsider their Second Amendment guarantees.
The gun debate is intricate and complex and will continue to be the source of discord in America. The N.R.A.’s heavy-handed influence over the debate has suffocated the voices of reason and prompted the drive towards militarization of not only our police forces, but also our citizens. With every weapon added to America’s burgeoning arsenal, there will be cries for armed teachers in elementary schools, stand-your-ground legislation, and limits on a multitude of other freedoms in the name of one: the Second Amendment.
There is a reason that the First Amendment — the all-encompassing bestower of what every America expects — is the first of our Bill of Rights. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness trump the death that guns represent, and it should remain so. In a country where only 30% of the population owns guns, the N.R.A. makes 90% of the noise about the alleged “need” for gun ownership.
No solution to America’s epidemic of mass shootings will be solved by delaying and avoiding the discussion on guns. The issue must remain atop the agenda even after the tears of the latest killings have dried. It is time to remove the bandage on America’s oldest and deepest wound and to do that we must have politicians with integrity who can hold the N.R.A. bribes in their hands and say, “No, thank you. I have a job to do for the people,” before they burn the gun lobby’s blood money.