LETTER TO THE EDITOR: What really is the ‘elephant in the room’

Several weeks ago Advancing Voices of Women (AVoW) held a “Civil Conversation” about firearms at the Arts United Center. After the initial presentation and toward the end of the Q and A session, several attendees asserted that the “elephant in the room” was the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a need for it to be more thoroughly addressed. They were wrong!

The NRA was more accurately assaulted that afternoon as the boogeyman or the whipping boy in the room of some 120 attendees. It certainly did not lack for attention. No, the “elephant in the room” if there was one, was the Constitution. In a crowd that size in today’s heated environment it would not have been difficult to find an attendee willing to immediately shred the Constitution or another to risk even their life to defend it. A lack of understanding and appreciation for its many virtues is a common deficit in great need of repair. Even though some attendees stressed the strong advocacy by the NRA for the Second Amendment, one need not be an NRA member to appreciate the Second Amendment any more than one need be a priest or journalist to appreciate the First. Or a woman to appreciate the Nineteenth.

Several other topics were frequently raised that afternoon, among them the accuracy of commonly bandied about statistics and their source, to the so-called anachronism of the muskets of the 18th century to today’s firearms sophistication. Certainly, if the Second Amendment was legitimate only for the then environment of that technology, then it certainly is not valid for today. If the current state of firearms technology invalidates the Second Amendment, however, does the existence of radio, television, and the internet invalidate the First Amendment’s press freedom and speech freedom, rights enshrined long before the inventions of these communication tools?

Probably not, although it would require an understanding of the Constitution, its foundation, and its successful history at addressing such questions as this. Much general media exposure of this matter recently has been in response to the Douglas High School shooting in Florida. Student marches against gun violence and demands for firearm restrictions up to and including the repeal of the Second Amendment are all the rage. However, maybe just maybe, if the petulant, petty, post Parkland demi-gods were a bit more knowledgeable about their history they would have a better understanding of the issue and be less dismissive and less demanding.

Personal firearm possession and ownership is a leading tool for a free people to remain free both from common criminals and hostile governments. The Founders knew this when they recognized and included it in the Bill of Rights. When the British occupation army first marched toward Lexington and Concord in an effort to blunt a rising colonial insurrection, their goal was not to confiscate a printing press or arrest pastors and occupy churches. Their goal was to locate and confiscate arms and ammunition which could be used against them. Their lack of success began the armed conflict we know today as the American War for Independence.

During the Reconstruction Era after the War Between the States and the follow-on Jim Crow period, state legislatures monopolized by Democrats passed and enforced firearm ownership and possession restrictions specifically aimed at freeman of color and the newly emancipated slaves. These restrictions, and others, allowed the night riding militant arm of southern Democrats to run roughshod over the newly freed citizens. Maybe if a more diligent adherence to the Second Amendment had actually been accomplished, there would have been fewer lynchings and even fewer Klansman. But why should any of this matter when the current “discussion is over” and demand to do something now crowds out contrary reality from the debate.

Hopefully, though, the debate will continue and neither side excludes the other. Maybe some good will come of it. However, if the focus remains on the tool and not on the user of the tool we will fail in our efforts and end up restricting or confiscating each successive implement abused. Shall we next address knives as is currently being done in London, England, or motor vehicles after the recent incident in Toronto, Canada. Before repealing or twisting the Second Amendment out of shape beyond recognition, maybe it would behoove us to acquire more knowledge and understanding its existence and purpose.

— Stan Jones, Spencerville