Last week, I wrote about two horrific acts of violence.
I wrote, in part, about how we’d already forgotten the loud cries for common sense gun regulation — specifically, banning bump stocks — in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting. I wrote in that column that we were apparently waiting until the next mass shooting to bring back up common sense gun regulations.
Roughly two days later another deranged (white, American-born, not Muslim) man walked into a church and shot almost 50 people, killing 26.
In the days since, we’ve gone through an all-too-familiar cycle. Shock. Outrage. Frantic calls to ban guns. Angry retorts that guns don’t kill people, laws don’t work and our dead children are simply the price of our eagle-flying, flag-waving, rootin’ tootin’ liberty. Thoughts and prayers. God (and Wayne LaPierre) bless America. And, finally, numbed senses and deafening silence. As we await the next slaughter.
There’s several reasons for this cycle. First, the NRA pumps obscene amounts of blood money into making us forget these atrocities before the dirt has settled over fresh graves. Second, we no longer are a republic (we never were a democracy). We are a corporatocracy — a government owned and run by corporations. And nothing gets cash flowing for the NRA like the blood of innocents.
Lastly, we allow ourselves to be stuck in two camps: either guns are sacrosanct, and any discussion of regulation yields a hysterical bunker mentality; or any gun not designed for recreation is inherently evil, and must be banned.
The middle ground between those two equally inane schools of thought — the ground where we can engage in mutually respectful, substantive discussion of ways to preserve both our liberty and our safety — has almost disappeared.
Let me clear up where I stand — and I believe it’s in that middle ground. I own (and am trained to use) firearms. I don’t own guns for recreation. I believe in protecting my family, myself and the principle that government exists to serve people — not the other way around.
I understand the Second Amendment was not written for recreational shooting (and not primarily for home defense). It is one of our most important civil liberties (even if many of us decline to exercise it, which also is their right).
But, important as the Second Amendment is, it is not immune to sensible regulation.
No civil liberty can survive without appropriate boundaries. As a journalist I hold the First Amendment just beneath the Gospel in terms of being sacred text. But, we do not allow people to incite lawlessness with their words.
You can’t yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater just because the First Amendment says we shan’t abridge freedom of speech.
As a society, we recognize there’s an appropriate boundary beyond which speech isn’t liberty; it’s anarchy.
That’s not encroachment on, but rather a protection for all civil liberties, for all Americans.
Likewise, appropriate boundaries on the Second Amendment do not infringe upon, but rather protect the greater aim of the Constitution: to ensure tranquility and well-ordered liberty for all.
There is a point beyond which liberty becomes oppression; it is the point at which the reckless or malevolent exercise of freedom endangers those around us, or infringes on their liberty.
Just as we value free speech, but do not permit incitement to violence, so too can we value and uphold the tenets of the Second Amendment while taking prudent measures to protect both individual liberty and collective safety.
There is common sense ground on which we should be able to agree.
Banning bump stocks (which have absolutely no lawful tactical or practical utility).
Universal background checks. Banning sales to the mentally ill. Banning sales to people on the terror watch list.
The vast majority of Americans agree those are reasonable steps that should be taken.
And the laws we have need better enforcement.
Will laws prevent every mass shooting? No, they won’t — no more than DUI laws keep reckless idiots from driving drunk.
But when we eschew sensible laws in favor of fear and corporate greed, we’re not protecting liberty.
We are promoting our decline into anarchy.
And that is an evil pit in which none of our civil liberties are safe.