Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A failure of civil society

"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

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