- Posted January 27, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Gun control debate: Background checks
Personal Responsibility and Gun Rights
In recent weeks, the debate between public safety and guns rights has come to the forefront once more. The multitude of sides (there are more than two; life is rarely a binary affair) each plead their cases, point out hazards and push for their agenda to carry the day. Once again, however, I feel the true root of the issue, like many issues, is being lost on many in America. The true cause of why firearms-related tragedies occur as well as many other man-made catastrophes.
Personal responsibility, or rather, the lack thereof.
The notion that humanity can create and enforce laws that ensure personal responsibility is a false notion. No amount of law in this land or any other will dissuade the truly determined individual from doing as he or she pleases. There is no law that strengthens a lock against a burglars boot, no rule that keep's a thieves' hand from penetrating someone's pocket, no punishment prescribed that will strike down a madman before he barges into a school or stands in a theater and wantonly commits murder. We as humans have tried and tried throughout the ages, under the auspice of God, King, Justice or Common Decency, to enforce personal responsibility (call it 'good behavior' if you like) on our fellow humans with spoken and written law...
We have always failed.
When I was a young teenager I was helping my father build a fence around our property and strengthening the existing fence in various areas. I asked him if we planned on keeping livestock so that the fence could keep them in. He said that was the idea. I also asked him if it was to keep people out. His response is one I have never forgotten.
"A fence only keeps the honest men out."
Laws only keep honest, responsible humans on their existing good behavior. For this purpose, laws (or a fence) are indispensable and they do a commendable job; they are a polite reminder to behave (or what the boundaries are). However, in the prevention of crime and irresponsible behavior by the criminal, irresponsible or the mentally deranged, the laws have no effect.
This brings me to the part about gun control.
New laws seeking to limit firearm ownership in any way, be it a ban of AR-style weapons, limits on magazine sizes or even a total ban on firearms, will fail just the same. Such laws face the same problems as those that outlaw murder, sexual assault, driving under the influence or even petty theft. There are people in this world who will A) willfully ignore them for their own reasons, or B) will be incapable of discerning right from wrong, lawful from lawlessness. Both of these individuals lack personal responsibility, albeit for different reasons.
The difference between firearms laws and laws against murder, rape and theft is summed up in three words; 'The Second Amendment'. Murder, rape and theft are not guaranteed in the Bill of Rights or Constitution; firearm ownership that 'shall not be infringed' is. It is my opinion that laws that are currently in place that curtail the Second Amendment are both unconstitutional and ineffective.
The fact we have all ready curtailed this Amendment with laws proves my point as crime is occasionally committed with fully automatic weapons, possession of which is outlawed unless under specific circumstances. The mentally ill, who are prohibited from possessing firearms, still acquire them. Felons, who have lost their right to own a firearm by their past actions, are still found in possession of them or even go on to commit further crimes with them.
If laws should be applied against the firearm, then first the Second Amendment protecting the ownership of it to the degree that it 'shall not be infringed' must be removed. As one might guess, that is a highly unrealistic possibility. In fact, some would see it as the tipping point.
So then, what do we do?
How we fix the issue of the mentally unstable committing a massacre is a matter of mental health care. A knife wielding madman, while not as dangerous as a rifle wielding madman, is still capable of committing a massacre. The problem is not the weapon of choice, but the madman himself and what has driven him to his madness. We as a society have long been irresponsible in the identification and treatment of such individuals.
How we lower crime is an issue of society. Most crimes are committed without a weapon, most violent crime without a firearm. Again, the problem is not the weapon (or even weapons at all), it is the fact someone chose to resort to crime. Why? What leads to this? That is where we need to look and make improvements. Personal responsibility must be made attractive to as wide a group as possible, otherwise there are very real incentives to behave irresponsibly.
How we solve these problems in any level of detail, I could not tell you. What I can say with all my belief is curtailing firearms rights will not have the desired effect as they are such a small part of the real problem of mental health care and crime. Even if the Second Amendment was repealed, it would not matter, as it would just allow for legislating personal responsibility in firearms ownership (or lack of it) and as such, like all laws, will only affect the personally responsible, not those who caused all the trouble.
Personally responsible men and women, honest men and women, are the individuals who deserve to have firearms and their accoutrements, improvements and accessories the most. Be it for personal protection, hunting for food or sport or the pastime of gun collection or target shooting. They have done nothing wrong; they do not deserve to pay the price for those who have. They are of all colors, creeds, genders and social standings; they are the majority of this nation that remain silent. These are the people the Second Amendment was talking about. Some may never wish to own a firearm or even hold one, but they should always have the right to do so. If they chose an AR-15 with 30 round magazines, then so be it. It's their right as a free, honest American to own any firearm that suits them.
Should they do something wrong later, let them be punished to the full extent of the law, but until then, do not treat them like common criminals or 'ticking time bombs'. Such treatment is tantamount to 'guilty until proven innocent'. That is not what we are about; trading liberty for safety is not what we are about.
As my father wisely stated, a fence only keeps the honest men out.
New firearms laws only keep the honest men and women disarmed or leave them outgunned.
They don't deserve that.
Author's Note - My piece is that of opinion, personal observation and philosophy. As such, no sources are provided, though I feel strongly much of what I say is evident in observable fact.