The NRA is right. The constitution correctly affords me the right to own a firearm. As a resident of Connecticut just west of Cheshire, location of one of the most horrifying home invasions in our history, and just east of Newtown, the unfortunate by-product of these sad events is that more than ever I am considering exercising that right to protect my home and family.
The NRA is also right in their assertion that guns do not kill people, people kill people. The simple fact is this: if someone wants to harm another, or many, they will find a way. Our children in their schools are a soft target for the insane, and will always be vulnerable. Millions of our citizens own firearms and use them safely and responsibly every day.
As a society we take a risk-based approach to limiting the opportunity and damage a single individual can do to our members. Because there are drunk drivers we do not take all cars off the highways, even though this will reduce the number of vehicular homicides to zero. We put up barriers to the behavior with laws and enforcement that exact strong penalties if an individual is caught driving while intoxicated. Between the extremes of “no cars” and allowing beer taps in the passenger seat, there is a balance of policy and enforcement that we hope will achieve the least possible harm to our citizens.
When the politicians in the 1790s determined that I should be allowed to bear arms, those arms were muskets, which took longer to load than it took Adam Lanza to kill 26 people, with a weapon of mass destruction. It is safe to assume they did not believe they were permitting the citizens to own canons, the weapons of mass destruction of their time. When does a firearm become this type of weapon? It shouldn’t be that hard to determine criteria, because we certainly know one when we see it. We don’t allow people to keep fertilizer bombs in their home, so why are these weapons different? Simply, because they are fun, bombs are not. It is why our most popular video games provide a simulation of firing them, and not a simulation of using an IED.
A decision made in the 1700s cannot be expected to apply to the issues faced by future generations. The fact that it is an Amendment the NRA clings to in support of their position is ironic: in 1791 they decided the constitution needed modification, because it’s a living document. It’s time for it to evolve once again.
A society needs to agree on how to improve the safety of its citizens, and we take political action not to eliminate unwanted events but minimize their occurrence and impact. So while I feel more vulnerable today than I did two weeks ago, even though the odds of harm by an attacker coming to my home are still minimal, there is not a hoard of criminals planning to show up at my door, for which I must be prepared with a semi-automatic machine gun. No one needs these for any practical purpose, no more than they needed to own a canon in colonial America. Yes, the amendment was intended as a check against potential tyranny of the federal government, allowing for armed militias, but the potential for destruction we are capable of today should not be entrusted with these fringe groups. The arms are being used against our citizens, not our government.
So we can either agree, as a society, to protect our citizens, or to protect their right to have fun. I hope the momentum of Newtown generates some sensible solutions. With the NRA finally declaring out loud the insanity of their position, proposing armed guards and teachers as the answer, we can now get closer to the reasonable risk-based solution that certainly lies somewhere in the middle, where answers to complex problems are typically found.