"If you had asked, in 1968, will we have the right to do with guns in 2012 what we can do now, no one, on either side, would have believed you."
- David Keene
I've been reading an informative survey of American gun laws from our beginning until now by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jill Lepore. It was written in April shortly after the Trayvon Martin and Chardon High School shootings, so not a knee-jerk reaction to the horror that transpired on Friday -- there's been way too much of that. I know this article probably won't change any minds, but here's the link -- Battleground America. Lepore argues that the gun lobby's successful setting of the terms of debate on the right to bear arms is the result of a flawed and anachronistic reading of the Second Amendment, which has more to do with the judicial led "rights revolution" of the 1960's than historically-informed constitutional interpretation (a revolution that also led to the "right" to abortion). Lepore also chronicles the evolution of the NRA from an organization of sportsmen into a single-issue advocacy group. Of course, I'm not a hunter, gun owner or enthusiast, so feel free to tell me I just don't get it.
Today in my state much is being made of the fact that we've hit the 1,000,000 mark for concealed weapons permits. That's approximately 1 in 14 Floridians packing heat. Even if we grant the argument that this makes for safer streets (I'm not convinced it does) it's a sign of a sick society. Lepore says it well.
One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable. Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left. [bold emphasis mine]
What's sad (and scary) is that so many people seem to be pretty ok with that.
See also: Guns, Belligerence, and the Loss of Neighborliness