On First Words

Today, there was another mass shooting. The details don’t matter. They really don’t. We can throw the details on the pile with all the rest. All the tragedy, the loss, the families torn apart, the lives forever, wickedly altered. To supposedly be the most powerful country on the planet, we sure seem to be at the mercy of any sicko with his hands on a gun.

The politics of the problem are hard, but so was going to the moon, curing diseases, and recovering from natural disasters. We don’t shrink from hard. Rather, we’ve been paralyzed by a relentless campaign of fear-mongering that tirelessly works to convince people that any — any — attempt of the state or federal governments to address the admittedly complex problem is a threat to freedom and liberty. You know what’s also a threat to liberty and freedom? A bullet to the head.

The history of the Second Amendment is hotly contested, but it’s very, very fair to point out that the original intent of the amendment was not a personal right to carry a handgun. But, I don’t want to talk about that, because, ultimately, whatever the correct or current interpretation of the amendment, there are higher principles to consider. Consider the opening words of the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I don’t know about you, but several phrases jump out at me: “a more perfect Union,” “insure domestic Tranquility,” “promote the general Welfare,” and “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” How perfect is your Union feeling lately? Digging the domestic tranquility? Does almost no gun regulation promote the general welfare? And, as you nervously glance around the movie theater, the train station, the city park, your child’s school, how secure are the blessings of liberty?

I think people should be able to hunt. I think people should be able to enjoy sport shooting. And I have no problem with someone who wants to keep a gun in their home for protection, even if they do so if the face of overwhelming research that establishes they are far more likely to harm themselves or someone they love than stopping an intruder. But none of that should stop us from acknowledging what is a deadly obvious problem with gun violence in this country and, more importantly, actually doing something about it. In some states you need a fishing license to bob a line in the local pond, but background checks and other reasonable gun safety measures threaten the liberty of the Republic? Give me a break.

No law, no regulation, no rule can stop all bad things from happening. But we all know that, and the impossibility of a perfect solution does not weigh against trying to find a solution, albeit imperfect. There has to be a better way because, at the end of the day, your right to buy dozens of automatic weapons for your personal stockpile is not as important as the right 20 beautiful children had to not lie dead on the floor of Sandy Hook Elementary school. It’s just not.

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