Dear America,

On February 16, the day after the murder of seventeen people in a Florida's Stoneman Douglas High School, Senator Marco Rubio spoke passionately before the U.S. Senate about the tragedy.  His sincerity was indubitable, and the accuracy of much of what he said cannot be denied.  Legislating to the effect of preventing such heinous acts has been impossible given the fact that our constitution proscribes "prior restraint," that is arresting someone because he is likely to commit a crime, and keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill presents its own difficulties.  But in one respect however, he overstated the case of his gun-rights advocating constituents.

In 1994, congress passed, and Bill Clinton signed into law, a ban on the manufacture of assault weapons, which included prohibition of the manufacture of high volume magazines for such weapons.  But the law had a sunset provision that automatically repealed the ban in ten years, and in 2004 when the ban automatically ended, congress declined to renew it.  Proponents of gun ownership cited statistical analyses of various kinds that ensued upon the demise of the ban and I have often heard such gun advocates claim that there was no difference in the use of assault weapons after the ban from what prevailed before it, but their conclusory arguments are elliptical, and in a critical way.  The statistics relating to the period before 1994 also demonstrate that assault type weapons were seldom used in crimes, and thus, the fact of a statistically insignificant change--a small variation in a very small number to begin with--is a function only of the rarity of the use of such weapons, not of the ineffectuality of the ban.  In fact, The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence study found that the use of assault weapons in crimes in the five years before the ban was just less than 5%.  During the ban, weapons like those banned were used in less than 2% of crimes, though similar weapons that snuck through loopholes in the ban were used in about 3.5% of crimes...still a decrease of about 45% of the total.  Reducing any negative phenomenon by nearly half is meaningful, even if the total volume of that phenomenon is meager.  So consider this.

Of the twenty deadliest mass murders since 1950, only one occurred during the period of the assault weapons ban.  Since the ban ended, there have been have been fourteen such rampages.  During the ban, there was only one--Columbine--and seven occurred before the ban.  And the number of mass shootings tripled between 2011 and 2014, the United States having five times as many as the next most dangerous country, The Philippines...more even than Yemen.  But we can all go on and on with statistics making whatever arguments we like.  The fact is that people are most likely to be shot in mass assaults at their places of business, or has become so common-place today, at school.  That is really the point.  We are all vulnerable, even our children.

So, when Marco Rubio bemoans our fate on thee Senate floor, when he invokes the constitutional provision in the preamble that imposes on the congress the duty to protect domestic tranquility and the common good but claims that we have yet to discover a way to do so, he is misinformed.  A ban on assault weapons will not prevent such perversity as we say in Friday a couple of days ago, but it will reduce the frequency with which such abominations...such atrocities can be carried out.  Rubio did say that our congressmen cannot just throw up their hands and say that there is nothing to be done simply because they don't know what to do.  Rubio exhorted his colleagues to try something...at least try, and a new assault weapons ban is a starting point that has proven itself effective in diminishing the number or parents who have to go to their children's funerals.  Let's tell our representatives to start there, America.  Remember that the first four words of the second amendment are, "A well regulated militia..." not "my cold dead hands."

Your friend,

Mike

Dear America,

Yesterday, for the eighteenth time this year, there was a shooting at an American school.  All our president has said so far...by tweet...is that it is incumbent upon all of us to report threatening conduct repeatedly, even though such reports result in nothing because the nature of democracy prevents "prior restraint."  One cannot be arrested for looking like he is dangerous--but we can refuse to sell such a person a gun if we enact the appropriate laws.  Of course the NRA and its constituency continue to assert that guns don't kill people; people kill people, and thus, people continue to kill people.  In fact, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama administration rule that required gun checks to include Social Security records so as to preclude selling guns to people who receive disability benefits because they are unable to support themselves on account of mental illness.  To Trump, I'm sure that rule constituted just one more example of over regulation.  You be the judge of whether he is right.  But beyond the reductive reasoning of our president as a function of his tiny, little mind, there is the overriding fact that the gun lobby's constant refrain about regulation being a threat to our freedom continues to garner sufficient credence in the halls of power that nothing gets done to curtail these personal atrocities enabled solely by the availability of killing machines to virtually everyone in the name of the second amendment.

The question that the NRA and its minions have to answer in my mind is, does the second amendment really say what they say it does.  At the risk of repetition, the first four words of the second amendment are, "A well regulated militia..."  You don't have to believe me; you can read the second amendment for yourself at a virtually infinite number of places.  I happen to have a copy of the constitution, so I read the original text.  It says in its entirety:

"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."

The concept is antiquated in many respects.  We no longer maintain militias, other than  the fringe who claim to constitute a posse comitatus and thus maintain the right to shoot anyone who disagrees with their anarchistic claims of unbridled freedom...even from the laws of the land.  But no one appointed them, and appointment by a person in legal authority is required for a real posse, or militia, to form.  So barring the claims of outlaws and right wing nuts, there are no militias to keep armed.  And then there is the security of a free state to consider.  The entities required to secure our freedom are armed by our military: a million and a half of them.  Then we come to the implicit claim that regulation, including officially locating every gun and its owner, constitutes a threat to our collective liberty because the less-than-two million armed federal employees might use those records to find and confiscate them.  But there are over 300  million fire arms in this country located in 55 million households, business locations and elsewhere.  Thus, each of those armed federal employees would have to confiscate just under six guns from each of just under 37 locations, and if they were to succeed, they would probably have to do so within a matter of hours.  As the old saying goes, not bloody likely.

Finally, the claim that registering fire arms and outlawing certain kinds of them, like assault rifles, is a hyperbolic claim at best.  In my opinion, it is pathological psychosis.  And besides, the power to regulate weapons, and by necessary implication their sales and possession, is specifically reserved to our government by those first four words, which brings us full circle.

The right to keep and bear arms is circumscribed by the common good.  And we define the common good in elections every two years at least.  As for me, I vote for representatives and senators who understand that the common good entails keeping guns off the streets, and "well regulated."  So to those who cleave to the NRA's mantra about guns and their relationship to liberty concomitant with their innocuousness relative to people killing other people with them, I refer you to those first four words of the second amendment of our constitution.  The founding fathers did not agree with you...and neither do the vast majority of modern Americans.  You can look it up.


Your friend,

Mike

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