Sunday, March 25, 2018

Marching for Our Lives - March 24, 2018

I’ve written before that racial hatred and the love of guns seem to fester together as part of a noxious stew in the hearts and minds of some Americans. But recently I’ve become aware of another correlation, one between domestic violence and mass killings. According to an NPR report of November 7, 2017, “perpetrators of domestic violence…accounted for 54 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2014.” The data for this statistic comes from the FBI and media reports as analyzed by Everytown for Gun Safety.

I’m not sure how we can put this information to practical use, except possibly by keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. This means, for one thing, current regulations have to be enforced. The same NPR report cited above points out that “the Texas gunman, Devin Patrick Kelley [who shot up a church congregation], was court-martialed for assaulting his wife and their young child in 2012, although this information apparently was not included in the formal government database that tracks such things.”

The domestic abuse-mass murderer correlation makes me weep for my fellow males. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not hostile to men in general. As I’ve said before, I am not anti-male and, in fact, many of my best friends are men. But there is in our society a certain way of being male that can spell Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with V and that stands for Violence. A key feature of this troubling version of masculinity is its glorification of the male capacity to whup ass or otherwise wreak havoc. I feel sure that this concept of maleness underlies the actions of domestic abusers who wind up killing so many.

I have a suggestion to offer with regard to dangerous males, and I will broach it here even though I realize it is utterly impractical: What if males were to be made ineligible to own guns? Wives, mothers, daughters and female friends could own them, but the men would have to check them out for temporary use - only with the women’s permission.

Okay, this is an impossible dream, but I would like to point out that if it had been in place over the past 20 years, many hundreds of people whose lives have been lost in mass shootings would be alive today.
On a slightly more practical level, why not amend the Constitution to nullify the individual’s right to bear arms? For decades the Supreme Court used to rule that this “right” was restricted - as the framers intended - to those participating in “well regulated militias.” But, when conservatives gained control of the Supreme Court, they overturned these customary rulings and expanded this right to all Americans, militias be damned.

Now please note that most democratic countries don’t insist on the right of citizens to weaponize themselves, and yet these countries all continue to be securely democratic. We Americans could do the same. And think about how out of date the Second Amendment is. After all, a militia in the eighteenth century had the capacity to effectively resist federal forces, but this is clearly not the case today. I don’t believe anyone with a lick of sense thinks that the citizens of Lubbock, Texas, (for example) could fend off an incoming division of U.S. Marines by relying on their household arsenals – no matter how many AR-15s those arsenals contained.

In other words, the original purpose of the Second Amendment was to protect citizens from an overweening federal government, but this Amendment is useless for such a purpose today. What protects us from having a division of Marines overrun our home towns are the values instilled in those Marines and their commanding officers – basically, their devotion to American democracy. We can thank their high school civics teachers, among others, for those values.

I don’t believe it’s necessary to deprive every American hunter or responsible gun owner of his or her guns. But I do think it would be a step in the right direction if we could get gun owners to admit that democracy does not depend on or even benefit from private gun ownership.

In the meantime, what practical goals can we hope to reach today? Well, taking my cue from the remarkable young students who flooded the streets of American cities yesterday, I would say we should hope for:
1. A ban on assault weapons
2. A ban on high capacity magazines
3. Universal background checks for all gun purchasers

And about those students, Wow. Hats off to them. Who would have thought, before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy, that hundreds of thousands of young people could mobilize and organize in such a dramatic and at the same time touching way? I am so impressed. May the Force be with them as they shake Congress to its NRA-funded roots.

In case you missed them, here are a few pictures of these young heroines and heroes.

        Marching in Washington, DC. 
 From Evelyn Hockstein, The Guardian

         11-Year-Old Naomi Wadler, Washington, DC
                      By Andrew Harnik, AP

                           Athens, Georgia
Photo by Joshua L. Jones, Athens Banner-Herald via AP

Once these young activists have achieved their goals, maybe we can start rethinking the Second Amendment.

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