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Guns and the Second Amendment: I Finally Get It ... and it's Not Pretty

Most of us have been clueless about the REAL issues behind the gun debate.

Is there anyone who hasn't had the bejesus scared out of them in the past few years after the shootings in Connecticut and Colorado and Minnesota and who knows how many other places? Mind numbing I think.

But if killing a couple dozen little kids doesn't stir people to some sort of action, what will? What does it say about our society - locally or nationally - that almost no one can even begin to talk about how to prevent lunatics from using a weapon to take out their anger without the NRA yelling, "They're after our guns."

Something else occurred after the Newtown shootings last month though that scared me almost as much and convinced me that maybe I really didn't understand this fight about guns at all. During the post-massacre coverage I watched some of the confrontation between talk radio guy Alex Jones and CNN's Piers Morgan. Jones was demanding Morgan be deported for his public stance against assault weapons.  All I ever heard Morgan ask was "Why does a civilian need to own a military assault weapon?" We all know the depth of the problem goes beyond those, but the conversation would be a place to start.

Morgan and Jones began to verbally duke it out early on, but very quickly, the show descended into an angry "he said, he said," speech by Jones that offered a little insight into folks who just can't sleep at night since 2008 because they believe the feds are coming to take their guns.  At least I thought that's all there was to it.

Jones at one point completely red-faced and roaring at Morgan said, "1776 will commence again if they try and take our firearms." Jones wasn't just angry … he looked and sounded like a crazed lunatic … the last guy on earth I'd want to see in possession of a weapon or two or 10. Despite Newtown, every time anyone seems to raise the issue of trying to get a handle on the gun issue, the NRA folks point to the 2nd Amendment and the infringement on their Constitutional rights.

There's more to my tale though, especially since I admit I honestly didn't know what the 2nd Amendment said specifically. I looked it up and relearned that in just 26 words, it says, "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I know there have been many interpretations of the 2nd Amendment of course, but right off the word "Militia" jumped out at me. I thought private militias were illegal in the U.S. If that's true, why do the gun folks believe they have a right to buy and use anything they want? Isn't that a militia? Or are these folks planning some kind of assault we're unaware of? And does this mean that if the NRA can pick and choose the words they want to support their cause, can't I do the same?

Jump ahead about a week to a professional luncheon I attended with 60 or 70 others in the north suburbs. Many of us have known each other for years, but don't know everything that makes everyone else tick. I sat next to a guy I've known for a decade or so and he starts talking about hunting to the guy next to him. He starts explaining the clip he's rigged up for his assault weapon that allows a quick change 20 or 30 bullets, yank it out, turn it over and there's another few dozen shots. I thought, "Wow. Someone's already figured a way around a clip restriction for sure."

He looks over at me and says, "Now there's something you Evanston folks would hate I bet." I tried to just smile since I could tell gun supporters outnumbered me at this table. Of course the guy wouldn't quit, so I just let go … "Tell me why in the world you or any other normal person needs an assault weapon … and why it's so important that no one can even imagine any kind of compromise on keeping guns away from lunatics like Alex Jones?"

So he tells me why. And I almost fell over.

He told me he and his people [gun proponents] need these weapons to defend themselves when the government comes for them. "Not just the guns, of course," the guy says, "but when this socialist government of ours comes for us AND our guns … and we know they will." The guy was dead serious. Over the past few weeks I've heard a number of other gun supporters tell me that fear of a government holocaust is precisely why they too need their guns and ammo … all of them. That's why the sale of firearms skyrocketed after Newtown he told me.

All this time I thought the NRA supporters just wanted guns because they believed the 2nd Amendment gave them the right. And here it turns out these folks are really planning for a war … one that I might just unknowingly get caught in the middle of.

No wonder we can't negotiate with the gun folks. They really believe they need the guns for that big day of Armageddon when some federal agency comes driving down their street in an assault vehicle to drag them out of their homes.

Interestingly, before the lunch ended, I asked my table buddy how, with no negotiation possible, anyone could ever do anything to keep another dozen kids from being murdered by a lunatic with a gun? He just shrugs his shoulders and says, "Beats the Hell out of me. But that's not my problem. And we don't want to debate this either," he told me just as I was about to ask. I'm hoping there are some gun advocates who will tell me they don't believe the Armageddon plan, but to me, this weapons debate is still way too one-sided right now.

How can the Constitution help the rest of us I wondered thinking back to an oath I took many years ago to defend it when I served five years in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam Era. But if there are so many 2nd Amendment supporters out there hunkering down for World War III right here in the U.S., what about the rights of my family, friends and neighbors? Now that I understand the depths of this gun debate, I realize it's a much larger problem than most of us ever realized.

So, right from the Preamble of the Constitution, "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more prefect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Do we ever have a lot of work ahead of us.

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june shellene January 28, 2013 at 06:45 PM
The mainstream media doesn't want anyone who looks sane, educated, reasoned...on mainstream TV talking about the other side of this issue, or any issue of importance. Just as Anderson Cooper argued with the people who question the Sandy Hook official story by bringing on an ill-prepared professor of obviously average intelligence, Piers brought on Alex Jones, who will always seem crazed no matter what he talks about, due to his anger approach to all issues. You will never see Anderson interview the very thorough and brilliant Brendan Hunt, whose ongoing research into Sandy Hook makes Anderson Cooper look like a silly man, at best. Nor will you ever hear someone like Piers Morgan argue with David Mamet, whose latest essay on gun ownership makes Piers and his ilk look, well, shall I say, pretty stupid.
Robert P. Mark January 28, 2013 at 09:23 PM
I haven't seen anyone on any channel -- Fox, CNN, MSNBC -- or anywhere else make a rational argument about guns yet June. I'm not a gun owner and I don't want anyone's guns, so these folks need to get over it because I don't think that's the real issue. But I do expect the people who stand behind the 2nd Amendment as if it were the Bible to respect my and my community's need to do more than cower every time the NRA tries to tell us that more weapons will solve everything. They have a great PR campaign, but show me a commentator on any show who has had any guest on who actually answers the question about why anyone needs an assault weapon? And just answering "Because I can," doesn't cut it. And I have a right not to see my kids be murdered in a classroom too. Is there really no way to find any common ground between pro-gun folks and those of us who aren't to have some discussion about curbing violence committed with guns?
Jake January 28, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Oh come on, thorough and brilliant? More like obsessively paranoid and insane just like the rest of the conspiracy theorists. All he did was harping on about the conflicting media reports from the first couple of hours during and after the tragedy, which is a normal occurence and which were corrected on the next day. But sure, he would make Yale-educated, quick-witted Cooper, who actually reported about the tragedy (unlike that keyboard "hero" Hunt), look like a silly man. I've seen Cooper eviscerate and destroy (literally, as in people loosing their good name, job and being taken to court and have their lifes screwed up) other calibres in five minutes in an interview, but please, do dream on. And no essay on gun ownership can write off reality. And reality is that Canda, Australia and Europe have much stricter gun control than the USA but allow their citizens to own guns (exception UK to some extend) and that all of those countries do not only have lower gun crime/injury/accident rates by miles but also lower homicide/murder rates in general. There is no way to whitewash the USA's insane, giant (lack of) gun control problem and the fact that it costs tens of thousands of lifes each year.
Jake January 28, 2013 at 10:19 PM
I think "because I can" pretty much sums up the argument I have heard from any gun-advocate who spoke out in the media so far. Sometimes the contrast between the pro-gun control people and the gun-advocates is mind-boggling. It's like adults talking to cranky children who want a toy just because.
Robert P. Mark January 28, 2013 at 11:37 PM
Of course I haven't read the story you mentioned yet June. But tell me what parts of the piece you found so intriguing? And of course, how does it help anyone sit down at the table when they folks I've met seem to be so focused on making sure they have enough guns and little else?
Eric Lieberman January 29, 2013 at 05:03 AM
I prefer to live in a society where there is more keeping my fellow man from murdering me than the fact that he doesn't have a gun! It is the anger, frustration, lack of purpose, lack of jobs, lack of status, mental health, etc., that makes people kill people. Proof? I am writing tonight from a small town Up North in Michigan where gun ownership is the norm and the gun murder rate is zero. The danger of the pro-gun vs. anti-gun dialogue is that it dangerously distracts us from the issues we should REALLY be focusing on. I went to the local sports store last week and saw an armory of firearms that would be categorized as "assault weapons". Why does someone need one? I don't know...but why does someone need a Corvette instead of a Corola? Here is the link to the Mamet essay to which June Shellene referred: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2013/01/28/gun-laws-and-the-fools-of-chelm-by-david-mamet.html .
jkerr January 29, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Why in the world would any normal person need an assault weapon?
june shellene January 29, 2013 at 07:43 PM
If the general population cannot come to terms with the fact that they have been horribly manipulated through the corporate controlled media, to believe lies and half truths, then there is no chance that they will be motivated to expand their thinking or attempt to look more deeply into what is currently taking place. Since 9/11, we have been very successfully steered into fear-based thinking which disables logical thought, leaving us with out-of-control, polarizing emotional reactions. If you can't bear to research and explore and understand how a group of people can control so many things, to keep us running scared and complying with their program, I understand. These past five years of study have been very difficult for me. However, if more people don't start thinking for themselves soon, things are going to become very dire, indeed. So, I won't be answering anymore questions, on this thread, as my feeling is I can't do anything for people who have made the decision to submit to the "official stories" being spoon fed to them by "the authorities." Please know, I do not wish anyone harm, ever. Even people who have done great harm themselves. And I certainly do not wish to attack anyone who is upset by what I believe. I have repeatedly, for over a year, written blogs, with links I hoped would help people to come to terms with the chaos around us. But this area of the country is uniquely difficult for reasons too complex to go into here. I wish everyone peace.
june shellene January 29, 2013 at 07:52 PM
Robert, Yes, there are those who believe guns will save them. Some believe gold and silver will save them. I have no idea who will be spared, or from what. It's going to be different in different places, and for different people. I'm trying to do the best I can to prepare for what I believe will be a very hard time for most people, here and around the world. I'm moving to Michigan with Eric, because I feel we'll be better prepared away from a large city with access to fire wood, water, and some land to grow food. I have no idea what will transpire, but I'm pretty sure many people may find themselves in situations where they wish they were not completely unarmed. If you go to NASA's sight, it might give you some idea of what their concerns are, regarding earth changes and sun activity. Regarding the geo-political situation, I read many resources...my favorite being sgtreport.com
Ben Ippolito January 30, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Australia took action after a fellow called Martin Bryant took his cache of assault weapons to a tourist attraction called Port Arthur in Tasmania. Over two dozen men, women and children died that day. Later in court this man giggled whilst the events of that day were recounted. Australia does not have the death penalty, however Bryant was sentenced to many life sentences without any chance of parole. Two fold argument presented (granted we don't have the 2nd amendment per se) being why does anyone actually have a genuine need for an assault weapon? And how did an obviously mentally disturbed man get hold of any guns at all. We have since made changes to restrict ownership to those with a legal and genuine need for firearms. Yes hunting and competition are valid reasons. Just in case of an apocalypse or to protect yourself against the government are not. This is why we have an army and democratic government. You can't argue with Piers' numbers. 33 vs 11,000 deaths speaks volumes.
millie January 31, 2013 at 01:45 AM
I need TWO
Dan Solomon January 31, 2013 at 01:52 AM
One unfortunate aspect of the gun control debate is that a certain very vocal portion of gun proponents seems to view gun ownership with a quasi-religious fervor. To me a gun is just an object like a hammer, a car, or a computer. And like many objects it has its uses. It can be used in hunting. It can be used in sporting applications like target shooting. It can, in certain situations, be used in personal defense against criminals. However guns are also widely used by criminals to further their criminal endeavors. Also guns in the wrongs hands can do tremendous damage. Therefore guns need to be regulated. Who should be allowed to own guns? What controls should we put on gun use? What types of guns should be available to the civilian population? These are all legitimate subjects of discussion and reasonable people can disagree. However I have trouble understanding why we all can't agree that military style weapons and large capacity magazines have no legitimate civilian use.
Robert P. Mark January 31, 2013 at 04:04 AM
June -- Popping in to the blog with a cynical comment like people "have been horribly manipulated through the corporate controlled media, to believe lies and half truths, then there is no chance that they will be motivated to expand their thinking or attempt to look more deeply into what is currently taking place." Now there's a great way to help fix the problem. Sorry but I don't think any of us should get away that easily ... without trying to help solve this terror some crazies with guns rain down on unarmed people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time..
Procrustes' Foil January 31, 2013 at 11:41 AM
If you would like to learn about the history of weapons in the US, please read James L. Mee, Jr.'s, The Genius of the People. This book is a well-documented history of the development of our Constitution. James Mee is a highly-respected historian. This book was published in 1987, so it doesn't get involved in the hysterical and uninformed rants that are often posted here. Instead, he reports and analyzes the debates that drove the development of our Constitution.
Robert P. Mark January 31, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Thanks, but no. I honestly don't care about the history of weapons in the U.S. I'd rather talk about the history we've made related to guns in the past couple of years which is entirely more relevant I think.
june shellene January 31, 2013 at 05:58 PM
I do not believe the official story of Sandy Hook. I do not look to the corporate media to inform me, nor have I for several years. It has saved me from financial ruin to do my own research. I'm just trying to do my job....and to be as responsible as I can. I know most people will want to shoot the messenger. You are being manipulated to turn to the "state" for your safety and your information. The state doesn't care about you. Obama has expanded the power of the presidency beyond what anyone could have dreamed a few short years ago. The Patriot Act, passed under Bush is now augmented in the most hideous way by the NDAA. I worry that Obama's personal power is greater than people realize, in that it has disarmed the human compassion and critical thinking skills of his followers. The military industrial banking complex is running the show now. Watch Inside Job, the Academy Award winning doc about the financial crisis, and PBS's recent...The Untouchables. Understanding the financial system is crucial to understanding the world. Countries are postal codes, and people are resources, just as water, oil and minerals are. I hope for a world without guns too, but Obama can kill anyone, anywhere at his whim, with a drone! Politicians, bankers and corporate crooks are surrounded by heavily armed thugs. Over half our taxes finance death and destruction...killing innocent people all over the world. Oh my God...what else can I say?
Robert P. Mark February 04, 2013 at 04:42 PM
So June, what is the story of Sandy Hook as you understand it?
june shellene February 05, 2013 at 05:32 AM
There are several independent researchers. I have no idea what actually happened, but as you know by now, I don't buy the official story, because there's always an agenda there. Brendan Hunt has an ongoing project connecting dots...he's at brendanhunt.com. There are other documentaries on youtube of value also. But this is not for the faint of heart. I have been reading about JFK, RFK, MLK, Oklahoma, 911, for years...and the detail and thoroughness of the research makes mainstream media just look silly. Nevertheless, the implications are scary...so, one must be prepared to have their world view seriously challenged. I came to this when Merrill Lynch lost half my IRA in the dot com bust of March 2000, and I decided to do my own money management and research. I never intended to go down the whole rabbit whole, but if you don't want to be financially bamboozled, and have a tendency to be thorough and curious...well, you're going to end up finding out some not so pleasant realities. Also, mind you, this led me to sell my condo in 2006...and everyone told me I was crazy then...so I'm used to it.
Jeff Smith March 01, 2013 at 10:24 PM
Alex Jones makes an easy target sometimes, but re: rights, asking "why do you need this?" is inappropriate. Once upon a time no one "needed" a PC. Maybe no one needs a blog or color printer, or a Hummer, or needs to cross-dress, or needs to wear a plastic mask with a goatee on it. Who other than the guilty "needs" privacy or protection from warrantless search? Some would say no one "needs" an abortion. In all those cases it's the wrong question, especially when impacting constitutional rights. But you're correct that a meme — not the only one, but it's out there — among 2d Am. advocates is of last-ditch defense against oppression (or chaos). Not an "insurrectionist" argument as some legal commentators call it. But, quite literally, arms as defense against tyranny. It's interesting that in your 2d-last paragraph you refer to an oath. Check out oathkeepers.org for more peeks into that POV.
John C Thomson April 23, 2013 at 11:30 AM
"No wonder we can't negotiate with the gun folks. They really believe they need the guns for that big day of Armageddon when some federal agency comes driving down their street in an assault vehicle to drag them out of their homes." Did this not just happen in Boston?

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