December 28, 2012

Maine Voices: Culture, not gun ownership, is the culprit in tragedies like Sandy Hook

Citizens must be allowed not just arms, but arms that are equal to those carried by their enemies.

By CHARLES BARNARD

PORTLAND - Edgar Rice Burroughs has been given credit for saying, "The more one listens to ordinary conversations the more apparent it becomes that the reasoning faculties of the brain take little part in the direction of the vocal organs."

If one listens to the conversations regarding gun control, one can see the truth in his statement. In light of the appalling happenings at Sandy Hook Elementary school, there is an obvious and necessary need to look at what we can do to prevent such tragedies from occurring again. But in doing so, we must not abandon reason or our Constitution.

In the Dec. 24 edition of the Portland Press Herald, the paper says, "the Maine Legislature could easily pass a ban on high-capacity magazines, and tell the world we are serious about protecting one of our schools from becoming the next Sandy Hook Elementary school." To imply that banning high-capacity magazine clips would prevent the next Sandy Hook massacre is nonsense. Just two 9 mm handguns with the standard two clips for each filled to capacity would have been more than enough ammunition to have killed those same defenseless people. Then the cry would be to ban those "high capacity" clips.

All proposed gun-control measures lead to debating the Second Amendment.

This quote from Thomas Paine sums up what the founders intended with the Second Amendment:

"The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."

The ability of citizens to arm themselves with the equivalent weapon of "the invader and plunderer" is the general principle behind the Second Amendment. Keeping law-abiding Americans from arming themselves with arms used by soldiers or even drug cartels is not a solution. Looking at how to prevent access by the mentally ill and criminals, and at how to change our culture, is.

Social organizations, customs, traditions, language, arts, literature and religion are some aspects of culture.

Among social organizations, the family is the backbone of a society. The American family has seen many changes since 1966. The traditional family of a mother, father and their biological children living in a low-conflict home has been under assault. Divorce rates are significantly higher, mothers are working more, and children are left to their own devices more than in 1966. The traditional American family has changed dramatically.

Since 1965, television, music, movies, games, art and literature illustrate changes in our culture. Compare and contrast those aspects of culture today with the same of 1965 or earlier. We all know they have changed dramatically. Even everyday language has changed. How many movies, songs or books prior to 1965 used the "f" word? It isn't uncommon to hear the use of that word today.

Looking at religious changes, we continue to observe societal changes. With the exception of the Mormons, African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Southern Baptist Convention, twelve major Christian denominations have seen marked reduction in membership as a percentage of the United States population since 1966. You don't need to look far in our customs and traditions to see that church membership and religious beliefs have changed since then.

Are all of these cultural changes causative? That question should be at the heart of the debate regarding any policy changes to prevent the next Sandy Hook.

Some people have argued that our Second Amendment was designed for a different time, and that today's technology requires a different response. They argue that a musket in the hands of an untrained citizen in the 1700s is different than an assault rifle in the hands of an untrained citizen today. Their argument actually supports the idea that citizens should have the right to possess the standard arms of the day. If the British soldier had a repeating rifle and our militia had muskets, history would have turned out differently.

Most of us don't fear our government today, but will that be true 20 years from now? Do many Americans today fear heavily armed drug cartels and gangs? We need to remember the quote by Thomas Paine: "Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of (arms)."

Charles Barnard lives in Portland.

 

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