Lost in the current debate over gun control is the Second Amendment of the federal Constitution.
On December 14, 2012, Newtown, Conn., was the latest victim of aggressive gun violence. The United States has endured a series of mass shootings in public places on a regular and arguably too-frequent basis as the dark cost of freedom.
These unspeakable acts have occasioned a widely-held demand for reforming our gun laws. President Barak Obama has responded to public outrage by appointing a task force to identify what can be done to stem the tide of gun violence.
The National Rifle Association has issued its own recommendations in response to the Newtown massacre. The NRA wants armed police in every school in America; guns against guns.
Ironically, while a fickle public demands gun reform, gun dealers are reporting record sales in arms and ammunition. Gun reform will not reduce public anxiety.
The nation is grieving the loss of twenty babies and their caregivers. This is a time for catharsis. This is a time for reason, not panic.
In the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, we recognized the value of guns in a free society. Whatever reforms accrue from debates over the Newtown and kindred tragedies, they must compliment rather than diminish constitutional principles.
Reform measures must pass constitutional muster.
These are some measures that can be taken without violating constitutional rights:
1. Use the power of taxation to make assault weapons and ammunition less affordable and consequently less available.
2. Insist on tighter gun registration, particularly in relation to gun shows.
3. Insight on closer background checks for felons and adjudicated others.
No legislation can prevent all violations.
The government should avoid stigmatizing the mentally ill by systematically associating violence with them. By equating the broad spectrum of mental illness with the Newtown massacre, pundits are doing a disservice to a marginalized segment of the population least capable of defending the record.
The vast number of those who are mentally ill are peaceable. There is a difference between chronic and acute mental illness. An acute episode of mental crisis shown in an extreme minority is insufficient cause to attribute the anomaly of violence to the whole. Furthermore, a momentary crisis is oftentimes unpredictable and therefore not subject a timely intervention that would preclude a tragedy.
Gun control occasioned by the Newtown massacre is not a logical justification for significant new spending on services for the mentally ill. New spending should be considered as a scheduled matter under the President's overhaul of the health care system under the Affordable Healthcare Act.
RESPECT FOR LIFE
The issue in lethal force is not the gun but rather the mental state of the gunman. It is imprecise to conclude the gunman's outcome reflects a mental state of illness although we define an antisocial act as a form of mental illness. Yet most gunmen use weapons in ways that are approved by society.
The antisocial gunman appears to have lost his respect for life and crossed the threshold of inhibition ordinarily provided by the conscience. The question then becomes Why or How?
We should examine ourselves, our households, and our society to ascertain whether our culture nurtures respect for life.
In the Newtown case, for example, we know the mother of the 20-year-old perpetrator taught the use of assault weapons to her son AS AN EXTENSION OF HER OWN HOBBY, possibly as a method of boosting his fragile self-esteem, which was exacerbated by divorce, the absence of a father figure, and shyness associated with a form of autism. Under these circumstances, the mother showed poor judgment by teaching her son to use weapons.
Reason not emotion must prevail in any debate over fundamental rights. The right to bear arms is a fundamental, constitutional right intended to preserve freedom from a tyrannical government, among other things.
Neither the President, nor the Congress will decide gun control. The Courts will make the final analysis.