When the Side Effects are Worse Than the Disease: Why I Can No Longer Support the Second Amendment
I wasn't able to write for the last few weeks. I've been dealing with the side effects of some new medications and it hasn't been pretty. I'm getting to the point in my treatment where I have to decide which is worse: the side effects of the medicines or the symptoms of whatever is wrong with my body. In this latest case, my doctors and I agreed that any benefit I was receiving from the medicine wasn't worth the negative side effects that I was having to endure. That means trying another treatment approach and hoping for better results. I continue to have hope that we will eventually find a treatment that will achieve a balance of helpful outcomes with tolerable side effects which will allow me to live a productive life on balance.
In the discussion on gun rights in this country, I feel like we have reached a similar crossroads. I believe that the 2nd Amendment was included in the Constitution to address a potential and serious problem that the framers of our new government were right to consider. They had just freed themselves from a tyrannical government and didn't want to enslave themselves to another one of their own creation. They didn't want to leave themselves defenseless, so they included the 2nd Amendment as a way to protect States from an overreaching Federal government.
Modern courts have since interpreted that action to guarantee that individual citizens have the right to own and bear firearms. Whether that was the original intent of the 2nd Amendment has been a debate for a long time, but the side effects are becoming pretty clear. We live in a country where mass shootings are now a common news story. We see it play out pretty much the same way over and over. Someone goes on a shooting spree. People are horrified and want to do something to prevent it from happening again, but if you talk about restricting access to guns in any way then some people get furious. YOU ARE TAKING AWAY MY RIGHTS! Tempers flare. Threats are made. Progress is not made. Rinse. Repeat.
When we say that something is a "right," that means that you are entitled to it by virtue of being a citizen. Voting is this way. Once you turn 18, you can vote. When the 2nd Amendment was written, it may have made sense to make gun ownership a right. Life was very different then. We were a nation of farmers and hunters, for the most part. Owning a gun meant owning a hunting rifle, most likely. Using the firearms available at that time, you would not be able to go on a shooting spree and murder 30 school children in a matter of minutes. It just wasn't possible.
Today, the reality is much different. Owning the firearms of today means that you own the power to potentially end the lives of dozens of people in a matter of minutes. Should every citizen have the right to that power? I don't think so. That kind of responsibility should have to be earned, and those who earn it must be held accountable for safeguarding it. You will hear gun rights advocates say things like "most gun owners are responsible." The problem is, some people are not responsible. We aren't doing a good enough job of keeping guns away from them. And few guns rights advocates seem to be willing to have a reasonable discussion about the issue without frothing at the mouth.
In Texas, the law allows carry of a concealed handgun (such as in a holster) with a concealed carry permit. Long arms, such as rifles and shotguns, can be carried openly without a permit. Handguns cannot be legally carried openly, for some reason. (In all cases, you must be licensed to own the firearm.) This means that it is legal for someone with no training to walk down the street, or in the grocery store, or at the playground with a loaded assault rifle slung over his back. It also means that it's legal for everyone else to do the same thing. What could go wrong? This image of a wonderful world where everyone is armed to the teeth at every moment inspired the formation of some clubs here in Texas, the most infamous being Open Carry Texas.
When I started hearing about Open Carry Texas, I was worried we were in for trouble. I've seen enough westerns to know that everyone carrying around a gun means that too many fights get settled with gunshots. Then, I saw these videos that some of their members posted online of them attempting to be seated at a Chili's restaurant and then at a Sonics. They have since removed the video from their YouTube channel, but you can see it here. They get major sadz when they are asked to leave their weapons in their cars.
Let's take a reality check, here. How would you feel if you were at dinner with your friends or family and a group of 10 men armed with assault rifles walked in? I, personally, do not want our society to devolve into the Old West where everyone is armed and date night has a good chance of ending up with a shoot-out at the saloon. The actions of these people are so extreme, that even other guns rights advocates are asking them to tone it down. But, are we just going to ask nicely? What if they say no? What if they choose to hang out in the parking lot with their guns and block access to your car, just to mess with you because you look funny? What if they choose to harass someone, like they did to this veteran over Memorial Day weekend? What if tempers flare and a fight starts? Are they going to put down their guns and use their fists? Really?
Because the right to bear arms is written into the Constitution, some people believe that even questioning it is anti-American. (No doubt, I'll get some harsh criticism for this post as well.) Those people may not have read the 1st Amendment, which protects the freedom of speech. In fact, questioning our government is absolutely American. The framers of the Constitution knew that they could not foresee every possibility, so they included a mechanism to change the Constitution as needed. That's how the 2nd Amendment got there in the first place.
I'm not saying that access to firearms should be forbidden. Rather, I think you should have to complete a safety course, a skills test, a background check, and a mental evaluation. You should also be required to carry liability insurance for every gun you own.
"But then only criminals will have guns!"
A gun for a gun. A nuclear weapon for a nuclear weapon. An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind. We've been trying the same treatment for too long, and the side effects are worse than the disease. The damage to our society from these senseless mass shootings is, in my opinion, vastly more destructive than the damage to our ability to defend ourselves, hunt, or shoot for sport with these additional restrictions that could help prevent an unstable person from obtaining a weapon.
At least put your gun down and let's talk about it, ok?