In another step of what can only be a ruthless quest to destroy what little legitimacy it has left, the National Rifle Association (NRA) disseminated an ad advocating armed security in schools in the aftermath of the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook in December. It is their belief that if we had armed security guards at every school in the country, shootings like that wouldn’t happen because there would be “good guys” on site to stop the shooter.
The ad explains how President Obama’s kids enjoy constant security every day, including, of course, when they are at school. The folks over at the NRA then point out Obama’s belief that we shouldn’t have armed guards in schools (which we shouldn’t). To the NRA, this is a contradiction; this is Obama saying that his kids are more important than ours, and that his deserve protection but ours don’t. And that is supposed to make us all very angry.
Before I respond to all of that, I have to say this: I love reasoned debate. I think it is entertaining, intellectually stimulating and, above all else, important to the forward progression of any enlightened society. Respectful disagreement often results in a healthy compromise and a tempered response.
I say “respectful disagreement” and not just “disagreement” because in order for there to be a productive, reasonable discussion of an issue, each side must have a degree of respect for the rationale of the opposing side. However, when it comes to this particular debate, I have to say that recently I’ve found it decreasingly possible to respect the stance of the pro-gun side of this issue.
This is not because I am uncompromising. No, it is because the NRA’s side of the debate – if we can still even refer to this as a debate – forfeited its right to be respected when it abandoned logic in favor of misguided, manipulative emotional appeals and intellectual fallacy. I cannot and will not give any weight to a faction that will say anything to rationalize a position that tacitly condones the perpetuation of violence and death. Their argument today is based on nothing but false presumptions, historical inaccuracies, unfounded paranoia and unchecked dogmatism, and should be treated as such.
The NRA’s most recent ad is a farce for two reasons. One is that they have dragged President Obama’s children into a debate that should be civil and courteous. His children have nothing to do with the issue, and if I were in the President’s shoes I would be more than a little insulted that the NRA would target my children and their safety in an attack on my own political beliefs. In fact, if the NRA keeps up with this argument, they may well need their guns after all. I doubt Michelle Obama will take too kindly to having her kids thrown under the bus like this.
The second reason this ad’s argument is invalid is because it wrongfully assumes that the condition of every child in the country is the same as that of President Obama’s children. If that assumption were true, it would mean that every kid in the country was a high-profile target of country-wide hate groups, political extremists of every kind, and both foreign and domestic terrorists. Now, if that really were true, I would be willing to put armed security on the table for discussion, but it could not be farther from the truth.
We should also consider the message that our kids would receive if we posted armed security in schools.
We would essentially be saying that the acceptable solution to violence is more violence, while admitting that, as a society, we have failed to protect children and, as a result, must now treat every neighborhood like a war zone. And, in the event a shooter does try something with armed guards present, what would ensue? A firefight in a high school, or an elementary school, or a daycare, in which any number of people may be hit in the crossfire. And, really, how much better would that be? The only reason to do what executive vice president of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre, so adamantly suggests would be if we had a real reason to believe that all of our kids are in great danger at all times, which we do not. Therefore, such a measure is both irrational and unnecessary.
Even if we did take that measure, it would be treating a symptom and not the disease itself. Ironically, the disease itself is made worse by the NRA’s continual fight against any new firearms regulations. This ad is really just an attempt to defend a position that can no longer be rationally defended. Because the fact is that no one needs to own an assault rifle or a shotgun or anything more than a small calibre handgun. No more than that would be needed to defend your home. If you are a genuine, licensed hunter, that’s a different story, but the average citizen should not be able to own any more than a handgun. Further, that handgun should not be allowed anywhere in public and should be used only during a real emergency. Even that, some would say, is pushing it, because according to the American Association of Pediatrics, a gun in the home is about forty-three times more likely to be used on a friend or family member than on an intruder. So when you get right down to it, guns aren’t really necessary at all. But that doesn’t stop gun advocates from voicing flawed and outdated arguments about why they can and should own guns.
One of those arguments is to say that the right to own a gun gives citizens the ability to protect constitutionally-guaranteed rights from governmental infringement. Well, gun enthusiasts, I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but if the government wanted to take your rights away, they would be able to do so. And that revolution that you like to shout about starting would amount to nothing. Our country has the best trained, best equipped and most advanced military in the world. We have snipers trained to hit a target from over a mile away, Abrams tanks, unmanned drones that can strike anywhere within minutes and much, much more. Our air force discontinued the production of the F-22 Raptor because it was so advanced it was actually unnecessary given its high price and the fact that the plane it was designed to replace, the FA-18 Superhornet, is already leaps and bounds ahead of the planes possessed by any other country in the world. You’re kidding yourself if you think your semi-automatic AR-15 would be a match for that.
All this talk about patriots rising up and defending their rights against government oppression is just that: talk and bravado. It is a lofty assumption that the government would even be able to pass legislation that curbed your rights in the first place. Congress is too deadlocked to stop arguing over even the simplest issues, like allocating the resources for relief efforts to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. I think the Constitution is safe.
And even if the Constitution were liable to be altered right now, it wouldn’t be the first time. It would actually be the twenty-eighth time, because it has already seen twenty-seven amendments – in other words, changes – to it. Supporters of the Second Amendment act like the Constitution is a divine document and to change it would be the highest form of blasphemy. In reality it is meant to be changed. The founding fathers created the amendment process specifically because they knew that the Constitution wasn’t perfect and might need to adapt to changing times as parts of it became obsolete. And it’s not a stretch to say that the Second Amendment has become obsolete. It reads, “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.” It states a purpose, and is, in my opinion, the only amendment that actually states a purpose. Its purpose, when it was ratified, was to ensure that the newly formed United States would be able to defend itself from foreign invaders. When the Bill of Rights was ratified the United States did not have a standing army, and the people were allowed to own guns in part for their own defense, but largely because they would be called upon to act as a military in the event of a war. Now we have a military, and we don’t need civilians and their guns to fill that role anymore. And as for self-defense, I think it’s safe to say that the founding fathers did not foresee the invention of semi-automatic weapons, and if they had, their opinions on the issue may well have been different. The deadliest weapon back then was the average musket, which took about a minute to reload after a single shot and was unreliable at best in terms of accuracy. It’s not really the kind of weapon with which you can go on a shooting spree. The Constitution can be changed. It started out as a document that indirectly condoned slavery, and that was rectified. So why not this?
Finally, the fear that banning guns would only keep them out of the hands of law abiding citizens while criminals, who commit most of the crimes, would still have access to them is simply untrue. Look at the statistics on gun violence in Canada and in most European countries where people, and oftentimes law enforcement as well, are not allowed to carry firearms. The gun crimes in those countries can be measured in the dozens, whereas ours can only be measured in the thousands.
So yes, President Obama and his family have protection, but so do you. While you may not have a Secret Service that follows you and yours around wherever you go (because, again, you don’t need that), you do have law enforcement agencies like the police, FBI, firefighters and the military. Why do you think that they exist? To protect us, and we should let them. The President himself doesn’t carry a gun; he trusts those that protect him to do their jobs. And so should we. •