A colleague recently imparted a discussion he’d had with his young daughter about guns. (It was unclear whether this took place before or after the recent shooting in Las Vegas, now being referred to as the “most deadly mass shooting in American history.)
“She was quite surprised that it was legal for people to carry around guns hidden beneath their cloths.
“Without prompting she asked, ‘Isn’t that kind of dangerous to have people walking around with guns? Why do we have laws allowing that?’
To the best of my ability I unbiasedly explained it’s part of the Texas culture going back a couple hundred years.
“‘Yeah, but things are different now.’
“At least my 10 year old gets it.”
As another colleague in the discussion pointed out, The US seems to have become a lot more dangerous than it was when we were younger. (In fact, that heightened sense of danger has more to do with the response of improved communications and the media to report more incidents than ever before, and the still-rising population and congestion of American cities and suburbs to concentrate and more easily track said violence.) Gun ownership is not the sole reason for that, but it’s certainly a major reason. Things have changed, and it’s not enough to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that life is the same today as it was in 1776.
One of the most brilliant aspects of our Founding Fathers was this: They recognized that, over time, the needs of the new nation would change beyond their ability to predict; and they made sure they baked laws and methods into the Constitution that would allow such change to be dealt with in the bounds of the law. They are commonly called Amendments… and they can be applied to any aspect of the country’s Constitution and laws, if the need arises. They can be created by our leaders, if they recognize the need for a change even before the rest of the country—the public—has come to the same conclusion. Sometimes, it must be done despite the attitudes of the majority of the country… because it’s right. And we, as a nation, have been derelict in our duty make these changes in one particular area, for far too long.
Gun ownership and gun control needs to be addressed to take into account the realities of the 21st century. Our government intended for the guns to be, and stay, in the hands of the Militia, which by their definition equated to our Armed Forces. We are no longer a nation that needs to hunt for its food or fend off wild animals, the only other reasons a gun needed to be kept in a household at that time. We have a government that can be charged with handling those duties that individuals are unable to handle safely or effectively. And we’re a nation that, in modern times, has developed non-lethal alternatives to firearms for personal protection.
We’ve been disrespecting our Founding Fathers and their wishes that we would amend our nation’s laws to keep track with the reality of the times. We should be amending the Constitution to remove lethal firearms from the hands of individual citizens, and if desired (or necessary) replacing them with non-lethal options for personal protection.
I understand how upsetting that sounds to many Americans, who’ve grown up with and around firearms, get some enjoyment from using them, and do not feel that firearms are a risk to them or an impediment to their safety. I also understand that many Americans were upset when told they could no longer keep slaves, or prohibit African Americans and women from voting. The 13th, 15th and 19th Amendments happened because America came to realize that things had changed with respect to the rights afforded to citizens, and that the laws had to be changed to accommodate that change.
I also understand how upsetting that is to many of the members of the gun lobby, who see this as an attack on their ability to sell a particular product. But like the manufacturers of products like Metrodin HP, lead-based paints, Red Dye No. 40 and Cloflucarban, they need to recognize the hazard their products represent and the need to learn to make other products, like non-lethal defensive weapons, in order to survive. And they need to accept that the weapons they produce should only be in the hands of professionals, not street thugs and pop stars.
And We, the People, need to recognize guns for what they are: Lethal weapons which have no place in American society, which we can replace with safer tools, and which we can no longer afford to keep around, use, misuse, romanticize, glamorize or worship. We are so lucky to have the government system we have, which gives the people influence and latitude to be part of it… but we prefer to shun it and do our own thing, the exact opposite of how this country was intended to be run. If we still need guns, it’s due to our own faults, inconsistencies, impatience, laziness and lack of desire to be part of a working country.
Even science fiction can help along these lines, in its purported mission to present our society’s faults and suggest possible future solutions. For instance, instead of arming landing parties of your future starship with laser weapons, how about giving them protective shields? For that matter, stop giving us stories about the umpteenth hostile alien species that wants nothing more than to wipe humans out… and maybe tell stories about aliens who love our music and want to show us their collection of historic sculptures.