First, a few words about who is writing. I received my first long-gun, a Stevens .410 shotgun from my father when I was ten years old. When I was fourteen, he blew my mind by presenting me with the Marlin lever-action .22 I had been salivating over for a year, a gun which I still possess at 70. My father had many fine long-guns and pistols that he let me use at will in my mid-teens. To, gun-lovers their names will mean something: A Parker Brothers 12 gauge shotgun; a pre-Japan-manufacture Model 70 Winchester .220 Swift with a 9 power scope; a Manliccher-Schoenauer carbine, a Smith and Wesson .38 Special long-barrel revolver. A Ruger single-six .22 revolver. A Winchester .30-06 for hunting in the dense Pennsylvania brush where we lived.He trained me carefully and well in gun-safety and from fifteen on I was free to roam the woods and fields with the weapon of my choice for the day, usually with a friend, both of us wearing pistols.
When I was older, during the Sixties I lived on Communes in Western Marin County California, the Trinity-Siskyou Wilderness area and in the Southwest. As a, by then, skilled hunter, I was sometimes called on to provide meat. A pal and I would grabbed a bag of black tea, a small camp pot, some jerky, and nuts and raisins and disappear into the Coast Range, to hunt the Spotted Fallow deer that some rich-local doctor had once thought pretty. He imported several breeding pairs and they became a nuisance invader species. In other places there were other species of Deer.
The Fallow Deer were light enough that field-dressed and quartered they weighed about fifty to sixty pounds. We would field-dress and quarter them, skin them,cut two sets of 12” parallel slits in the skin, tie the meat in with the leg-skins knotted diagonally across the back. You could slip your arms through the slits and pack it home.
Because we had no money for licenses and ate only wild meat, we were poachers. Consequently, I hunted these deer with my quiet .22 to which I had added a four power scope for light gathering. I never lost a single deer to escape wounded.
I mention this to establish bona fides as a “gun-nut.” I reloaded ammunition for my .38 Special revolver, .220 Swift, and .30-.30. Despite ending my hunting when I became a Buddhist later in life, I still own my .22, an octagonal barrel .30-.30 lever action, and a small-of-the back, stainless steel .22 automatic I kept around when I lived in my truck and slept rough, too close for comfort to urban areas.
Now, on to the matter at hand:
The Second Amendment, protecting the right for a well-established militia to keep and bear arms, was written at a time when a skilled marksman still required at least 30 seconds to reload a flintlock rifle after firing. The Founders could no more have imagined 100 bullet magazines, semi-automatic weapons, taped-together 30-shot banana clips and fully automatic pistols then they could have imagined Facebook, cell-phones, or the internet. Furthermore, the Constitution was written at a time when virtually everyone owned a gun as a means of eating and defense from the Native people we were displacing. Gun lore and practice was widely spread and understood.
One of the wonderful qualities about our Constitution is its flexibility and its serviceability. That is why it has survived into its 2nd century. Our founders lived in a time when slavery was legal, and for political purposes the life of a black person counted as a fraction of a white person’s in determining the number of legislators in an area. Women and landless people were not allowed to vote. My point? Things change! The underlying principle is not invalidated, but made current by our elected representatives.
Our Congress is charged with adapting these general principles to changing times. The reason I mentioned hunting with a .22 (not ideal unless you stalk well) is that even "underarmed" by most consensus, I never required Armor piercing bullets, semi-automatic weapons, double-bananna clips taped together, tear-gas, or tactical gear, all of whose rightful place is either with law-enforcement or the military. Such weapons were made to kill rapidly and often. They have nothing to do with sport or survival huntingt. No hunter needs such weapons. Period. Armor piercing bullets for instance (or overpowerful weapons) pass right through the body of the animal without leaving the full impact of the bullet in that body.
There is a useful phrase I learned in Buddhist practice which says, "An iron Buddha can't pass through a furnace. "A clay Buddha can not pass through water." It reminds us that nothing, no idea, ideology, or tool ever works all the times. That is why flexibility and adaptation is required.
Those who scream “2nd Amendment” every time reasonable regulation of ammunition and military style weapons for civilians arises,are clinging like drowning men to the life-raft of a kind of Freedom that makes no sense in some situations. They have so bullied our politicans ,that the politicians have become too flustered to remember to remind the Voters that no one has ever called for taking anyone’s weapons away. No such legislation has ever been advanced of even written. What is at issue are the regulations required to maintain a safe society which is the mandate of t the Congress to provide.
The obdurate position of the NRA makes no sense, unless we understand that Organization as the lobbying arm of the immense munitions and weapons industry. The US is the largest purveyor of weapons on the planet, and while it is very difficult to determine exactly how many are made and sold, twenty years ago it was over 3,000,000 rifles, shotguns and pistols annually. The NRA protests ring shrill and overdone when they assert that the simplest common-sense regulation of military-style arms will allow the camel of ‘confiscation’ to get its nose into the tent.
It was precisely the rigid adherence to "ideas"which led the U.S. to a ruinous war (if not several) in Vietnanam-Cambodia-and Laos, to keep out the Communists. We lost the war, the Communists won, and none of the Domino theory hysterically perpetuated by our leaders, wherebye a loss would empower Communist governments all through Asia, ever came to pass.
That ruinous, wrong, over-simplified thinking cost the deaths of 58,000 Americans, the wounding of an additional 350,000 and the decimation of three million Vietnams, Cambodians, and Laotians. It is as silly as bombing Iraq because we did not like Sadaam Hussein. (What would we have thought it the Mexican's bombed Brooklyn because they feared John Gotti?)
The routine referral to “protecting our Second Amendment Rights’ as even the White House is forced to do, empowers this false and irrational argument and makes it sound as if our right "to keep and bear arms" is under threat. Furthermore, it side-steps the responsibility of Government to set reasonable limits on personal freedoms to protect the public safety.
Every time we halt at a STOP sign, our freedom is impeded. Every time we travel with the flow of traffic on the right side of the dividing line, we are being regulated. Freedom, in a world which to a five year old is demonstrably interdependent never meant that anyone can do whatever they want when they feel like it. Despite the assertion of mouth-breathers to the contrary, our freedom ends at our neighbor’s boundaries. We cannot burn toxins upwind of our community; cannot dump them into creeks upstream of others, for clear and readily available reasons.
All such regulations limit our fixed and inflexible attachment to ideas of liberty. The Japanese call such a person a "one-board fellow." He is like a man carrying a wide board on his left shoulder. He can see everything on his right side, but nothing on his Left.,However the important error, the error worth concentrating on is the adolescence of those ideas. When that immature thinking is harnessed to a wealthy, aggressive industry and free-market Capitalism we create the situation we find ourselves in today----Guns are literally everywhere. Available to be bought, sold, and stolen virtually at will and without oversight or controls.
It would be a relatively simple matter to create legislation so that lovers of exotic weaponry have access to them stored on site, in gun-safes, in Bonded gun-clubs. That would mean that people would be free to buy civilian hunting and sports weapons, but not miliytary weapons unless they were locked up. That seems like one reasonable possibility. If we could discuss the situation without rancor and hysteria for ten minutes, we’d find others. But there’s no doubt that no hunter needs the kind of weaponryto enjoy hunting. The rapid-fire weapons was available to the kids at Columbine, or Aurora,have nothing to do with the folksy, father-son ads so beloved by the NRA. They are completely different issues.
Why do people want such weapons? In my experience of 25 years of noodling around gun shows and chatting folks up, they fall into four categories: the afraid; those who thrill at having such power in their hands; deluded militia-types and survivalists qho believe that they are going to fight off the unimaginible power available to the Federal Government with a few men under arms; and, finally, sociopaths who imagine that they are hunting men when they hunt mega-mammals or shoot wolves from Helicopters. In total, these four categories make up a miniscule part of gun-lovers and hunters, and yet because they make constitute the front-line for the NRA and it’s lobbying efforts for wealthy stock-holders, they receive inordinate attention.
Civilians do not need these weapons to hunt or target shoot. We are neither police nor military nor are we trained sufficiently to handle them safely in dense urban areas. The people who spoke up after Aurora to assert that they possessed concealed carry permits, "and if I had had my gun in that theater….” Are kidding themselves and us. They are leaving out the "ifs" which interrupt their heroic fantasies. “If” they had not panicked.’ “If “ they were crack shots. “If” they got a clean shot in the midst of a roiling, panicked, bedlam, and “if” the killer’s body armor totally failed him, perhaps they might have been of some use. But if the killer had available to him only a knife, baseball bat, shot-gun or bolt-action rifle, even though some people might have been killed, he would have been over-powered the moment he stopped firing to reload. He could never have killed 12 people and wounded 71.
According to the CDC 29,000 people died of gun-related deaths in the U.S in 2009.Some estimates go as high as 100,000 annually ( that would three 9/11’s a month.) Either figure is multiples of any and all European or Scandinavian or Asian country. I would not leave a child in a room where the floor was littered with matches, yet only a few years ago, two Harvard Phd’s who did a study on sociopaths (men and women without conscience, remorse, or guilt) determined about one in a hundred in any population qualify. ( Stranger than fiction, when they disguised the same test as a skills test and gave it to captains of finance, 20% of those taking the test qualified as psycopaths.) That means we each know one. Leaving guns strewn this readily around the culture is like leaving the child in the room-full of matches.
It is a disgrace that the best that our President, his Spokesman, and Politicians can come up with is flatulent talk about “coming together”, “being a family” and other inappropriate nonsense that adroitly side-steps the political dilemmas real action on the issue would create for them. If National Elections were Federally Funded and if our public airwaves were given free to qualified candidates, this would no longer be a problem. There is more to say on the subject. Perhaps a later post.