I like guns. I really do. I understand their fascination. Back in 1956 and 1957 I was on the small-bore competition rifle team in high school. I was pretty good, too. Some years later, I competed on my police department’s pistol team, qualifying expert most of the time, and master twice. But, except for target shooting to maintain my proficiency for the possibility that one day I might have to, God forbid, shoot someone in my duty to serve and protect, there was really no compelling reason for me to have a gun.
The primary purpose of a gun is to kill; target shooting is just practice for that ultimate use. A peace officer may legitimately kill only in self defense or in defense of another. The military, which includes the militia, which these days is the National Guard, legitimately kills only in national defense. A hunter legitimately kills only for needed food or if he is attacked by a vicious animal while traipsing through the wilds. A citizen may legitimately kill only in self-defense or in defense of another.
Any gun that is not used for killing, legitimately or otherwise, regardless of its size and firepower, is a toy. A privately owned P-51 Mustang with three fifty caliber machine-guns in each wing, if such a thing were allowed to be owned and used by a private citizen, would be a toy. But to believers that the 2nd Amendment allows no limits on what arms a citizen may keep and bear, even that should be allowed. Target shooting and sport hunting is playing with toys. Target competition is playing, even in the Olympics; it merely illustrates the proficiency with which the competitors would be able to kill in other circumstances. Many other “sports” are the same. The original purpose of javelins, which are spears, was to kill hunted prey for food, competing or attacking predators, or enemies in battle. Shot-put probably evolved from throwing stones at animals and enemies. Archery is basically the same as target shooting but with weapons that don’t go boom. Tradition is a fine sentiment, but going into the woods to kill an animal for the trophy or unneeded meat, is play. The play is to pretend to be an essential protector or provider for the tribe huddling back at the cave, or some variation of that. Killing for play, even animals, has long been losing its legitimacy, which Merriam-Webster Reference Library defines as conforming to recognized principles or accepted rules or standards. It’s pretty much going out of favor the same way as pit-bull fighting, cock-fighting, bullfighting, and throwing Christians to the lions.
When the founding fathers wrote the U. S. Constitution there were no police in the colonies, only the federal military, the state militias, which, at that time, were all able-bodies men that could be called upon to aid the small military in repelling invaders, and the citizenry. The larger cities might have sheriffs and their staffs to maintain order, but in the towns and villages, a homeowner, farmer, or shopkeeper had to rely on himself and his neighbors to keep safe in the course of daily living. Without a trusty musket over his mantle, things could get dicey.
But, did those great men intend that the 2nd Amendment they added should limit this country’s ability to control criminal violence for all time? Or was it to allow citizens to protect themselves and their new homeland in a culture that had no other local protection until such time that the evolving nation developed a better system? Could they have envisioned gangs and cartels over two hundred years later with open-market access to assault weapons? Could they have envisioned assault weapons? Could they have envisioned a future with access to guns so common that a deranged person could go down to the corner, buy a gun, and then walk into a theater or shopping mall or airport and shoot people at random? Or how about a school child who could bring his father’s unsecured gun to class to show off to his peers, or to threaten them—or to shoot them? Might they have envisioned their progeny developing trained agencies to police the towns and counties of their new nation?
I believe they did, and they built on their faith in us. With wisdom seldom demonstrated since, this country’s founders included Article 5 in the United States Constitution as a method to amend the amazing document they created, the Constitution that was to be the supreme law of the land. Even the admonition that the right to bear arms shall not be infringed is an amendment, an addition, to the original, none of which, by the way, was carved in stone.
How did such deadly toys become so sacred that they can only be pried from cold, dead hands? Could our founders have envisioned a society so enraptured with guns that we refuse to use the tools they gave us to adjust our Constitution as needed? Probably not.
So, why all the guns? Are they really to prevent a president from using the military to make himself a dictator? Does anyone actually believe that the United States military, or any part of it large enough to make any difference, could be blindly led into supporting or even allowing a president to become a dictator? Does anyone really believe that if such a thing did occur, an armed citizenry could prevail against them? Does such paranoia really exist, or is it merely a ploy that, shouted loud and often, is intended to deter saner minds from denying them toys that have become too abundant and too dangerous to amass in the toy box?
It has taken a long time to get here, so we should not expect a quick fix. There are so many guns in this country that it is said we can never be rid of them. Perhaps. But, even if it takes longer to get rid of them than it took to amass them, it will never end if it never begins. With an amended 2nd Amendment, perhaps one that spells out what a well-regulated American militia means in the 21st century, we can begin to move away from such violence that too often resembles the chaos of the Middle East.