Thursday, April 19, 2007

An Interesting Way of Looking at Things

It is so difficult to think of anything to say in light of this week's unimagineable tragedy at Virginia Tech.

Not that this stops the media, especially 24/7 TV news channels, from going on endlessly about it...even when they clearly have nothing to say.

I was, however, struck by a few lines that appeared at the end of a report by Leslie Eaton and Michael Luo in yesterday's New York Times, "Shooting Rekindles Issues of Gun Rights and Restrictions":

In Virginia and on gun-rights blogs, some critics were challenging Virginia Tech rules that prohibit gun owners from carrying their weapons on campus. A committee of the State House of Delegates has considered legislation to override the ban, which is common at many other colleges.

Yes, you read that right--the problem, they say, is that there WEREN'T ENOUGH GUNS at Virginia Tech this past Monday. Funny--I had thought that there were at least two too many.

No one can say for sure if allowing students and faculty members to carry arms would have prevented the rampage on Monday, said Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League. “But they wouldn’t die like sheep, at least, but more like a wolf with some fangs, able to fight back.”

That would look good on one's tombstone, no? "He Died Like a Wolf with Some Fangs, not Like a Sheep." Just as dead, of course, but, hey!

But Blaine Rummel, a board member of Virginians for Public Safety, an anti-gun group, disputed the notion that arming more people would reduce violence. “Virginia is second in the nation in the ease of getting handguns,” Mr. Rummel said. “If easy availability was a solution, Virginia Tech wouldn’t be in mourning today."

Indeed yes--the idea that more guns will somehow solve the problem of gun violence is positively surreal. But for reasons I cannot understand, the right-wingnuts are so terrified of anything that might, in their view, "restrict" their right to bear arms--even such innocuous ideas as waiting periods, background checks, and prohibiting semi-automatic weapons--that they begin to stop making sense at all.

A couple of side issues that have arisen the past few dark days:

  • One of my far-flung correspondents pointed out to me that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms...but it doesn't say anything about a right to own ammo. Guns don't kill people, after all; bullets kill people.
  • It has long seemed to me that the Second Amendment gives a right to bear arms (not, interestingly, "firearms," just "arms"), but does NOT say that that right is absolute. In other words, it does not guarantee me the right to own semi-automatic weapons, which are capable of killing so much more rapidly; it does not allow me to own grenade launchers or surface-to-air missiles, or ICBMs. In other words, it does not say I have a right to bear ANY and ALL arms that ever have been or even will be invented.
Is it really impossible to find a middle ground upon which we can support the intent of the Second Amendment without running the constant risk that some lunatic down the street will eventually snap and go on a shooting that probably will be stopped only by an answering rampage?

At the end of it all, is the status quo really the best we can do?

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