Vail Daily column: Guns in America
September 24, 2013
How to write an article about guns in America that attempts to be:
• Factual — if that's possible today where everybody has their own facts.
• Evenhanded and unemotional — doubly impossible.
• Introspective — Webster calls it "to look into one's own thoughts"?
But here is an attempt to do just that, starting out with the "lightning rod" Second Amendment. So is the Second Amendment on solid ground? Let's put it to the test by comparing it to some government operations in terms of entities or principles — noting many things in life come in threes.
BRANCHES OF OUR FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
As laid out by our founding fathers:
• Executive: Held by presidents with differing views of power.
• Legislative: Originally a part-time, limited number of years' duty in the House or Senate migrating to full-time careers today.
• Judicial: Set up to be nonpolitical, except the appointment process sometimes involved the best/worst of partisan politics.
Even from the start, the three in operation may not have been pretty, but it sort of worked out, usually.
Common characterization of requirements:
• Educated/informed electorate.
• Fair/open elections and an unambiguous Constitution — with "which comes first?" argument.
• Established political parties that understand the notion of give and take.
Some might say we are not operating too well with these support legs.
The Second Amendment was in the first 10 amendments, called the Bill of Rights, to the original Constitution. The amendment included the phrases "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" and "a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state." The phrases are purposely out of context in terms of sequence, dropping interspersed commas and capitalized words. Everyone is their own expert on what the words, sequence, commas and capitalizations really mean. One view is the Second Amendment is currently supported by three rights or legs:
• Organized defense against foreign invaders/own government gone awry: Original and primary intent.
• Self-defense in threat-to-life situations: An affirmed right in Heller 2008 Supreme Court ruling regarding self-defense in the home and generally applied elsewhere.
• Hunting for food/sport and sport shooting — supported by many years of tradition.
This may sound quite solid operating in today's environment. Come up with your own legs or principles supporting the Second Amendment.
Basics supporting the Second Amendment are only the beginning of issues that are floating around. These include issues of gun safety, thousands of gun-related deaths per year, gun/ammunition types, federal vs. states' rights, stand-your-ground laws, gun violence in the media, NRA positions and more. Watch for follow-up letters to peel the onion of these and other issues.
Paul Rondeau lives in Vail.