New Words to Old Feelings

I’ve never been able to specifically put into words why I do not believe that guns should be an unchecked guarantee. Yes, the Second Amendment (arguably) guarantees all Americans the right to own firearms. Yes, part of the success of American’s battle for independence was because of gun ownership. Obviously, guns have changed a bit since 1776.

Those words I was looking for were found this evening. Walking into the Metro from work, I was greeted by a police officer. And when I say police officer, I mean a Washington, DC cop outfitted in clothing meant for full-on warfare. I have no idea how much extra he weighed because of all of the extra uniform pieces, but what truly stuck out was what he was holding with both of his hands while his eyes shot back and forth: a really, really big gun.

I don’t deal with guns very often. Yes, I’ve shot them, and yes I enjoyed it a bit, but I also hold them at a distance. (Not when actually shooting them, but in a mental sense). So when I see a gun, especially while casually strolling down a city street, I don’t greet them indifferently. This evening was different. After spending a good amount of time watching coverage of the events in Boston, and then seeing that police officer with his giant automatic assault weapon, I instantly felt relieved. A sense of calm just came over me.

As I got onto the train it just hit me: those are the people I want to have guns.

There are so many people in the world with bad intentions, demonstrated just recently with the Boston Marathon explosions. Today’s event was awful, but it is a drop in the bucket. We know so little about what happened right now, but what we do know is that anyone who is set on causing harm can do it. A high school science text book and a little bit of willingness will allow anyone the skills needed to do more damage than should be allowed. No illegal weapons necessary. And while we cannot fully prevent these events, limiting the tools is essential.

This country has the strongest military in the world, by a long shot, and we have some of the best-trained police officers and first responders. When something goes wrong, I want to know that the people going in to do the protection are in the position of having the upper hand. There is so much to handle as it is, the last thing the police, SWAT, FBI, National Guard, etc., need is to worry if the people they’re going after are equally armed.

The people tasked with securing us should always have that upper hand.

Don’t get me wrong, my well-intended friends on the other side, I completely understand the argument on behalf of protecting the Second Amendment. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just forego the argument over the “true” meaning behind the words of the amendment, and let’s agree that the right to bear arms will not be infringed upon. Black and white, gun ownership is a right. Also, a well-armed citizenry can be crucial to protect this nation in the event of an attack, as well as conversely protect this nation from the rise of a too powerful government. Finally, if criminals are going to have the ability to attain certain guns, albeit illegally, then we as citizens deserve legal access to those same guns for self-protection.

All fair points, but just flawed.

First, the U.S. Constitution is not limitless. In certain times the First Amendment has been pushed aside and “Cruel and Unusual Punishment” is typically a reflection of the times. Are these far reaching? No. Would a restriction on the types of guns people are allowed to own be far reaching? No. It would be a balanced measure in response to a drastic change in technology. In fact, the Second Amendment is perhaps the only part of the constitution that mentions anything mechanical. So let’s just call this balanced gun ownership is a right.

Looking at both a foreign attack on our nation, as well as criminals’ ability to acquire illegal weaponry, I just fail to see how an untrained population can provide ample support. Agreed, this was crucial in our fight for independence from Britain. And afterwards, well… The War of 1812? No. The Civil War? Nope. The Mexican War? No. The Spanish-American War? Still no. WWI? Again, no. WWII? I don’t think so. Korea? I’ve seen M*A*S*H, and no. Vietnam? Hardly. First Gulf War? No. Current wars? No and no. Oh wait, U.N. Peace Keeping missions? No on all fronts.

Okay, so as far as I can tell this argument has only been tried once when the U.S. did not have a formal military. Since then it has grown to be the largest and most well trained in the world by a significant margin. I think about the events today, and I think back to 9/11, and it wasn’t people who own guns flocking to the streets to protect each other. It was the police officers, National Guard, and the U.S. Military showing up immediately to secure the areas. Citizens with guns would have just added chaos and unneeded hassle to already troublesome scenes.

The argument that we need to be able to protect ourselves against our own government is even weaker, in that it assumes your fellow citizen is unthinking. I am not going to pretend to know a lot about WWII, but I do know that Italy’s problems were enlarged when Italians refused to fight. The analogy to the current U.S. is that there are so many levels and layers to our military, so many different branches, how can we not believe that if a president and a few military leaders tried to take over they could even control the military?

When the fan gets hit, I want to know that the people responding are well-equipped, well-prepared, well-trained, and, by far, that they do not have to concern themselves with anything but the mission at hand.

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