…as well as war, famine, pestilence, and the University of Georgia Bulldogs. But unless the United States is prepared to invade Athens, Georgia (an incursion this University of Florida Gator wouldn’t necessarily oppose!), then I, along with you, must accept the fact that war, famine, pestilence, the Dirty Dawgs…AND GUNS…are here to stay.
I know it’s odd for someone who serves in the military to hate guns. But I do. I really, really do. Regardless though of my personal opinions about guns, I am very passionate about ensuring that my Soldiers are spiritually and emotionally prepared to engage and destroy the enemies of our nation…with their guns. I firmly believe that this is one of my tasks as a chaplain in the US Army and I will never shy from this duty. So I’ll forgo enumerating my policy beliefs about gun ownership and remind myself and others once again that guns in America are here to stay.
What does this mean…that guns are here to stay? It means we Americans need to come to a sensible and realistic solution to the gun debate that divides so many of us, because this issue is not one that will magically disappear or solve itself through irrational rhetoric and unrealistic solutions.
On the one hand we have the National Rifle Association and 2nd Amendment literalists, who believe that any restriction on gun ownership (to include ammunition) is a violation of the 2nd Amendment and something that should never be supported. I liken these literalists to those who oppose any restriction on abortion. Even the smallest restriction, no matter how sensible it is, causes these enthusiasts to accuse those who support restrictions of being fascists who want to abolish the Bill of Rights.
On the other hand we have those who literally do want to take away ever firearm and piece ammunition that private American citizens own. I guess the 2nd Amendment is inconsequential to these folks as well as decades of jurisprudence on the issue. Even if their utopian ideal of a weapons free society could exist (by the way…it can’t), I’d really like them to explain how they envision a confiscation of 275 million+ guns would take place – the vast majority of which are owned by law abiding citizens, many of whom serve in the military and in our police force.
Americans like guns. Americans own guns – lots of them. And Americans are never going to surrender this political right that has defined them for over 2 centuries. But we Americans can and must do better with respect to the gun problem that plagues our nation. Is the solution more gun laws? Probably not, especially since those who inflict gun violence on the innocent have no regard for upholding the law. Is the solution more guns, or as has been advocated recently, the arming of teachers and other civil servants? I suppose if the idea of 3 million+ public school teachers carrying a sidearm, as they work alongside the youngest and most impressionable in our society is your idea of what our public schools should resemble, then we should prepare ourselves for a bloodletting this nation has never known. I know, I know, guns don’t kill people – people kill people. But I’ve got to believe that our adoration of guns, violence, and the insatiable access to things whose primary purpose is to take the life of someone or something else speaks volumes about who we are as a people. As we seek to advocate a culture of life, I have yet to figure out why firearms should be part of the conversation.
If there is one issue that all sides can agree on, it should be a renewed commitment to addressing the mental health problem of some in our nation. More often than not, those who are the perpetrators of gun violence are the mentally unstable. But to help these individuals – to identify them and give them the proper behavioral health services they need, our policymakers (regardless of their stances on gun control), must commit serious financial resources and make a longstanding public commitment to addressing this issue. In no uncertain terms, mental health is a national security issue for our nation and we must start thinking about it as one.
Like many things in politics, sensible and pragmatic compromise is the way forward on this issue. Gun owners must accept restrictions, perhaps more than currently exist. Gun control supporters must accept the fact that the 2nd Amendment, no matter how you want to interpret it, will always guarantee American citizens the political right to own firearms. To support gun restrictions does not make one a fascist. To support gun ownership does not make one a rebel who seeks to overthrow the government.
Hate guns, love guns – they are here to stay. What to do about them, we Americans aren’t yet sure.