Friday, April 20, 2012

The Right to Bear Arms (or the need to)

The media is all abuzz today carrying the bond trial of George Zimmerman, facing 2nd degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin.

There are lots of things being tossed around in the media today, including whether Zimmerman profiled Martin before killing him, if Martin’s death was truly an act of self-defence and what the future is for Florida’s stand-your-ground law.

There are cries of injustice by some camps and racial prejudice by other camps.

But one that I don’t hear a lot of politicians wrapping their politically-motivated rhetoric (disguised as justice) around is the right to bear arms …..

…. or rather … the need to bear arms.

I’m as familiar as anyone with the Second Amendment in the US, “the right to keep and bear arms” and while I don’t consider myself a pacifist by any stretch, I wonder where the interpretation of the Second Amendment is taking America.

When the Amendment was written, the citizens of a newly-born country felt threatened by local indigenous people and the “oppressing government overseas”.  The need to defend one’s self from foes inside and outside the young nation was real.

But I wonder how real this threat is today.  Do we really need the right to have handguns, automatic weapons and other forms of assaulting each other from a distance?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not anti-firearms.  For people who enjoy hunting, target practice and such, I have no issue with people who enjoy the sports associated with firearms.

But if George Zimmerman was not armed that night, would he have approached Trayvon Martin as the charges suggest, or would he have retreated to a safe distance and called for help if he felt threatened?  Is it possible that Zimmerman approached Martin, feeling empowered or at least safe by the weapon he carried?

I posit that carrying a gun not only protects us from dangerous situations but it in fact emboldens us to create or enter dangerous situations that we might have avoided otherwise.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if buying more guns out of the need to feel safe was actually creating more potential for violence, thus creating the rationale for going out and buying more guns?

The cycle that results has no solution or rational end.

Many of my friends whom I respect and love dearly have great stockpiles of weapons to protect themselves and their families should times of strife arrive and the need arise to defend their families.

As I have pointed out to them, if they have a stockpile of weapons and they intend to use them, they should know that when others arrive, knowledge of the defender’s stockpile will cause the antagonists to bring a larger arsenal.

How certain are they of winning then?

Now consider this.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 8% of 18-25 year-olds and 6% of 26-49 year-olds suffer from serious mental illness in the US (2008 statistics).

According to the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva, Americans own approximately 270 million weapons (2007 statistics) with purchases exceeding 4.5 million units per year.

These are two statistics that don’t work well together and should create some level of concern for all of us.

Is it any wonder that the Department of Homeland Security recently ordered 450 million rounds of HST (armor piercing) ammunition for domestic use?  I wonder what they see in our future that we don’t know about.

True gun enthusiasts are correct when they say that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and that racial prejudice and other forms of hatred are not created by the existence of guns.

Both statements are true.

However, unnecessary gun ownership (including handguns, automatic weapons and the right to carry concealed weapons in public) enable people filled with hate or fear to do more than they would have done had they not been armed.

And therein lies a huge difference.

As an enlightened society and alleged masters of our domain, I wonder why we don’t see it.

In service and servanthood,


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