Making insanity against the law

Several people have commented to me about my blog, “With Joepa and the orange hair – who cares how many died?”.  They thought the most important issue was not any obsession with killing and killers, but with American gun laws.  One, comment from Bill details Australia’s response to a similar issue and how Australia immediately faced the issue of gun ownership and gun purchasing.  Bill agreed with another person I know, wondering how in the world the National Rifle Association gained and retains so much power.  I see their point of view and agree that the NRA is far too powerful.  Both thought I should address the issue of the NRA and its power to corrupt the American legislative process.

However, to me the issue is bigger than that; focusing on guns and the NRA begs the real question about the nature of the Constitution.  How can a document written in 1787,  225 years ago, be valid now, in 2012?   The Constitution guarantees some basic freedoms and rights: freedom of speech, of the press, and of assembly; right to petition, freedom of religion, right of the people to keep and bear arms, protection from unreasonable search and seizure, due process, double jeopardy, self-incrimination, eminent domain, trial by jury and rights of the accused; right to confront accuser, speedy trial, public trial, right to counsel,  prohibition of excessive bail and cruel and unusual punishment.  Those are not the only things in the Constitution, but those are most fundamental; those are the rights and freedoms that in normal discourse we think define us as a nation.  We are a nation that by law each person can speak his mind and carry a gun to protect his home.

Not only was the Constitution written in 1787, it was based on English Bill of Rights from 1689.  That means the we are trying to apply legal concepts from four centuries ago (not 400 years, centuries – 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000) to today’s problems.   That is not an easy task.  In 1689, people were not buying assault weapons and ammunition online and they were not walking into movie theaters, disgruntled and angry willing to kill everyone they saw.  Just as they were not writing blogs or selling illegal drugs or stolen property on the Internet.  In those times, protection from search and seizure had nothing to do with the police listening in on your phone conversations or tracking you by the location of your phone.   And yet, what else have we to frame those issue and protect us from a government that interferes in the personal lives of its citizens?  This is the 21st century and we are a civilized county.   We like to think the government is benign and would not act like the governemnt of Gaddafi or Stalin.  But would any government keep within proper limits without a way to define those limits?  I think not – but that still does not answer the gun question or address the ability of one demented person to attack and kill dozens of other people, does it?

In the cold light of day, after the funerals it is clear – he should not have had all of those explosives, guns and ammunition.  But who should have a gun?  Well, I was raised to believe every man and every home should have a gun.  We thought we needed guns to obtain food, to protect our homes from invaders and as a deterrent to keep the government at bay; like criminal intruders, my ancestors believed that guns keep the government honest also.  Assault rifles and rapid fire weapons are guns, more deadly, but still guns.  Did my grandfather believe every man should have a machine gun and 5,000 rounds of ammunition?  No, he did not – but he did have 5 or 6 rifles and several hundred rounds of ammunition around the house at all times, as did my father, his brothers and my stepfather.  I don’t belong to NRA, nor did any of the men in my family, but the NRA is defending something I believe should be defended.

So, what is to be done about the 24-year old men (I am not aware of a case of a woman mass murder, although suicide bombers are sometimes women) who accumulate thousands and thousand of weapons, explosives and ammunition over a 4 month period of time?  I wish I knew, I am certain of one thing and it is a common statement made by the NRA and its supporters: , “if you outlawed guns only outlaws would have guns.” Simplistic I agree, but criminals are criminal, and by definition do not obey the law, they would not give up their guns willing, while honest law abiding citizens would.   Well, one might argue, then the police could go and take the guns from the criminals.  And they might indeed, but how would the police know who had guns without violating other basic rights?

There is no easy answer  for me.  And I don’t believe there is an easy answer for society.  That young man was more than a criminal.  He did not think or feel as people normally think and feel.  I don’t think it is possible to legislate sanity or rational actions – but that is was missing in Colorado – sanity and reason.


3 Responses to “Making insanity against the law”

  1. 1 rita best July 25, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    Ken well said. I find Im processing though my own thoughts and opinions on Gun Control. I find myself asking what do I value at a fundamental – at a personal level. There is always room for improvement in every choice – and I guess thats the insight for me. Its about my choices, my values, my life experience. A gun don’t make the man/woman, but it sure as hell levels the playing field in a nano second, especially when needed in defence…That said the greatness of a nation and its moral progress cannot be legislated. As to the NRA – get educated, get involved and take responsible for your choices. In the end its just an organization. Grounded in group of people who believe we all deserve the right to defend ourselves, our Constitution, and actually our nation. Whether one agrees or not – it’s simple – its your choice. so choose what feels best for you.

  2. 2 Bill Hanigan July 26, 2012 at 1:47 am

    I have to agree with most of the above. I’m not at all sure the Australian gun controls solved the problems of individual massacres. Living in a market economy people can purchase weapons of their choice if they can pay. The Port Arthur massacre in Australia was by an obviously deranged individual who was known by people around him as such. So how did he obtain the weapons ? That’s the question that we need to answer, is it through stricter controls ? The criminals don’t seem to have a problem in Australia finding weapons. And in the greater scheme of things how often do these massacres occur. I accept most of Ken’s arguments re the right to own weapons, and I aknowledge the problems in deciding what are sporting and protection weapons and what are military assault weapons.
    And I have to add that I believe the London Olympics standpoint on not aknowledging a minutes silence for the “athletes&coaches” who were massacred in Munich is a DISGRACE,and I’ve lost all interest in the event.

  3. 3 Ken Adams July 30, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Rita – you probably have a clearer view of the need to possess a weapon than most – few people have lived in places as dangerous as you have. I suppose, in part that is where my values began – my grandfather and his generation were born after the American civil war – men knew they might once again have to fight the government to protect their values. It was also the last of westward expansion where a gun was certainly necessary. And of course my father’s generation and mine carried a gun into battle – a psychologist once told me that it was time to abandon some of my “in battle” ways of thinking, that I no longer needed to think about killing to survive. He was right, Reno is not in a jungle in Asia and there are no snipers lurking around the corner – except of course when there are as in Colorado. But my emotional connection with that world did not go away because I left it, it is still there and comes to surface often in dreams. So while I defend the “right” to bare arms, I must also admit to a less than rational root cause for my belief.

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