To address the problem of gun violence, we need the support of gun owners. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was not a mistake made by the framers. The right to “keep and bear arms” was not for protection against potentially hostile Native Americans, nor to ensure venison or wild boar would grace the pioneer table at mealtimes. It was an act of a free people to preserve a right many citizens had only recently died to protect, from a government they had newly organized but instinctively did not trust.
To better understand the current gun control battle, we need to review our history. In April 1775, the British in Boston threatened to move into the countryside and confiscate the guns of the militia, or minutemen. Henry WadsworthLongfellow’s famous poem immortalized the ride of Paul Revere and the alarm he raised, “The British are coming” … for their guns. Most of us know the ensuing battles at Lexington and Concord were the opening shots of the Revolutionary War.
The flash point of the revolution was gun control. The minutemen who died that fateful day were defending their right to keep and bear arms.
As Americans moved ever westward from the 18th to the dawn of the 20th century, guns were used for self-defense and subsistence hunting. Often, the only law on the frontier was at gunpoint. Guns were so much a part of daily life that, following the Confederates’ surrender at Appomattox Court House, the officers were allowed to keep their sidearms.
Within each American’s blood courses the philosophical DNA of the minutemen and the pioneer. They are related but different, the first with an abiding mistrust of government, and the second, a practical day-to-day necessity. The vast majority of gun owners never shoot at another human, but they have peace of mind knowing they could defend themselves if circumstance compelled them to protect their own lives or that of others.
Those who seek to decrease gun violence must understand that real or imagined efforts to narrow the Second Amendment will likely fail, and with it their efforts to stem gun violence.
Loss of life from a gun is always shocking and agonizing, whether the shots are a random act of a tortured soul or a premeditated killing. The gun debate comes into public focus following tragedy, when emotions run highest.
Each time the question “How can our nation control gun violence?” arises, many suggest setting limits on legal gun ownership. Unfortunately, this course of discussion demonizes gun owners. There the debate ends, nothing is accomplished, and both sides retreat to their corner and wait for the inevitable next round, knowing the same result will ensue. We have seen this play out for the last 40-plus years.
Using government as the only tool to reduce gun violence is likely part of the problem. Perhaps it is time for churches and social service organizations to lead the way and with the support of gun-rights advocates.
Our nation, but not necessarily our government, can take action to stop glorifying gun violence in movies and video games, teach our youth ways to resolve problems with words rather than guns, and seek additional services for those who suffer with mental illness.
But to accomplish the goals of a safer society, we need to understand our nation’s connection to gun ownership and move to collegial discussion on decreasing gun violence.•
Roob, executive vice president at Keramida Environmental, has run Indiana Economic Development Corp. and Family and Social Service Administration. Send comments on this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.