I know what I’m supposed to say about gun control. That the Second Amendment is settled law, and that no one wants to take away your right to bear arms. That gun ownership is a cherished tradition and most gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens. That all we want is to keep guns out of the hands of “bad guys.” That the issue at hand is really more about our culture of violence than about guns themselves.
But today I am bucking conventional wisdom. Today I defy political correctness.
Today I say, the Second Amendment was a mistake.
A noble idea, but a mistake in execution. Today I contend that the Second Amendment is either wrongly worded or wrongly interpreted. Either way, it has outlived its usefulness and needs to be changed.
Of course, few will care what an unknown columnist in an online newspaper thinks about one of the great issues of our time. I don’t expect my opinion to change minds. I surely don’t expect hardened gun rights advocates to stop and take notice.
But I think it’s important for each of us to wrestle with the issues involved and take a stand. That’s what I’ve done in the weeks since Sandy Hook.
And after intense personal reflection on the issue, I have come to the conclusion that the Second Amendment is now hurting the nation just as it hurt the innocent victims of Newtown. It has become an enabler for a lot of bad ideas and bad habits. And until we recognize that reality, more hurt will come.
While I understand that millions of Americans find joy and pride in gun ownership and the traditions that go with it, I believe that their hobby is a bad one. Too many innocent victims are injured every week with guns. Not just in acts of violence, but in acts of inadvertent irresponsibility and outright recklessness.
After reading a voluminous list of the accidental gun shootings that happened in just a couple of weeks across the nation, no reasonable person can still believe that “responsible” gun owners and their families are any less victimized by guns than crime victims.
In short, guns terrorize everyone. You may think that you, the responsible gun owner, are the exception. But you’re not. Policeman, trained gun experts, even a world-renown army sniper – anyone who is exposed to a loaded gun is a potential victim.
So whether the Founding Fathers intended for a well-regulated militia armed to defend the state or a citizenry armed to defend it's own freedoms, it doesn’t matter any more. That debate is esoteric and moot.
We have arrived at a time when the concept of armed citizens defending themselves from a tyrannical government is little more than a romanticized anachronism of bygone centuries.
And while everyone has a right to self-defense, it is now obvious that owning a gun is much more likely to threaten your life or the life of someone you love than it is likely to save it.
As a society we could better spend the billions of dollars that we have invested in gun collecting. 300-million guns and countless ammo represent half a trillion dollars in wasted money. It’s a useless, expensive, dangerous hobby. For most Americans, it drains their savings of precious funds that could be better spent to educate their children, pay down their credit cards, purchase more useful products, or otherwise enhance their economic status.
If we are really concerned (as I am) about our American culture of violence, let’s remove the most violent symbols of that culture. Exposing children to violent movies or murderous video games is appalling. But exposing them at a tender age to shooting real guns at targets or living things is infinitely worse. I don’t care that rural fathers think of it as a fun family activity and a great bonding experience. They shouldn't. Men used to think that sharing a beer and a cigar with their sons was a bonding experience. Then we evolved.
It’s time to start thinking of guns in a new light: as a relic to another era and another lifestyle. Like suspenders and typewriters, guns have outlived their usefulness in a modern society. As recently as a few decades ago, we saw the idea of a holstered gun on a man's side as a quaint vestige of a bygone era known as "the wild west." Then in our collective madness we let our cities morph into a modern day wild west of concealed weapons and carry permits.
Where once we had Wyatt Earp, now we have George Zimmerman.
Where we once had Annie Oakley, we now have Nancy Lanza.
Where once we celebrated Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., we now celebrate Sarah Palin and Ted Nugent.
Collectively we identify more with the governing philosophies of John Wilkes Booth than those of Abraham Lincoln.
As a civilized society, we somehow went backward instead of forward. We have to reverse that trend fast.
We should no more romanticize guns than we'd romanticize mustard gas or polio.
When we stop giving guns the symbolic power of being the sole defender of our freedoms, we can let go of their hold on our collective psyche.
Guns are, pure and simple, weapons. They have one use, to kill. They do not protect. They do not defend. They do not enhance life. They end life.
Guns hurt people. And once we get over them, we can start down the path to establishing a new, saner relationship with them. One in which an assault weapons ban is not considered an assault on our freedom. One in which high-capacity magazines are not more cherished than the human capacity for empathy.
We need to return to a mindset in which the well-being of people matters more than the well-being of guns.