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A nation less civilized?

Nick Fickling

Among the ongoing primary excitement, 55 U.S. senators and 250 U.S. House members have taken time out to file a ‘Friend of the Court’ brief urging the Supreme Court to support a ruling that would overturn the three-decade ban on handguns in Washington, D.C., homes. Nine Senate Democrats and 68 House Democrats are among them so, unusual for this Congress, it is somewhat bi-partisan. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas leads the effort because she wants her .357 Magnum ready at her bedside in case of burglars, or perhaps Al Qaeda. This issue is getting lawmaker juices running faster than a Congressional benefit cut.

For those of you fervent gun-control activists or rabid pro-gun NRA types, the Internet is awash with a whole raft of articles, blogs and comments covering this development.

The position that the Supreme Court finds itself in, and will hear argument for on March 18, interests me. You see this matter is like an onion; there are many layers. What seems to be a simple question of the interpretation of the Second Amendment covers the issue of D.C.’s position in the nation and fundamental questions of democracy and diplomacy.

Washington, D.C., is the nation’s capital, also seen by many in the world as the global focus for democracy and freedom. The people of D.C. voted for a handgun ban, enacted back in 1976, and surely the will of the people is paramount in any democracy.

Then there is the small matter of taxation without representation. How come D.C. voters who pay taxes have no senator to represent them or a House vote? Their views are not represented in this ‘Friend of the Court’ brief from Congress.

Hutchison is arrogantly trying to force D.C. voters to accept her gun-toting ways. How would Coloradans feel if a group of outsiders from all across the United States tried to impose unwanted change on the people here? The gun issue is arousing excitement but is minor compared to the rights of free people to decide their own destiny. What about states’ rights? With D.C. not being a state, perhaps such rights do not exist there?

It appears that, in the U.S. capital, the widely acclaimed ‘capital of the free world,’ lawmakers are wanting to impose measures that run totally counter to the wishes of the people. It shows a total lack of respect, not just for the voters of D.C. but for the very principles of democracy on which this country was founded. As a lesson in democracy for peoples in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba, North Korea and elsewhere, it is not helpful.

In recent years the United States and its allies have helped set up elections in various parts of the world and then winced as the local people elected the wrong lot to power. In democratization it is essential to not only have free and fair elections, but to respect the outcome, confident that down the road the people will tire of banditry and the good guys will win through. It is also essential that, as free nations, the United States and its allies are seen to act in a democratic way, respecting the wishes of the people.

A final thought: How is it that in the capital of the greatest nation on earth, people find themselves needing to pack heat? Are we not civilized? Maybe we are approaching this thing from the wrong direction and need to address the very things that cause crime and result in fear, rather than just try to apply ever bigger Band-Aids.

What is clear, however, is there is more at stake here than Sen. Hutchison and her precious .357 Magnum.

Nick Fickling is retired from the British military and lives in the Vail Valley. E-mail him at fickling@vail.net or editor@vailtrail.com.


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