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The recent Sandy Hook massacre blasted open a fractious debate about solutions to gun violence in America. This is a good and logical outcome of such an unthinkable tragedy. Some of the proposed solutions are real head-scratchers.

I pledge allegiance: One line of defense against gun violence is the notion that our country has somehow failed our children by dropping the morning recital of the Pledge of Allegiance. Or if the pledge is still recited, the inflaming words, “under God,” have been sanitized out of it. Oh my God, we have shut the school doors to God; violence and mayhem are the result! This argument has holes like a road sign on the Wyoming prairie.

  • Here is the original pledge, as written by Edward Bellamy to be used in a Columbus Day school celebration in 1892: I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. In later years “my Flag” was changed to “the Flag of the United States.” The words “under God” where not added until 1954, during the height of our country’s infamous period of McCarthyism. 
  • This argument assumes that a lack of patriotism is at the heart of random acts of mass murder perpetrated by a handful of confused and/or deranged individuals.
  • The “under God” reference assumes that it is impossible to be a patriotic American without also believing in God. I beg to differ and I resent the accusation.

Arm the good guys: The NRA‘s perplexing solution is more armed citizens. Yes, we can build the economy while we’re at it, outfitting every Good American with a semi-automatic weapon. But . . .

  • What defines a Good American? How do we decide who is good and who is bad? Will I be a Bad American because I’m an atheist?  Will every armed American be subject to a battery of psychological tests to determine the degree of their patriotism, their honesty, their sanity? McCarthyism revisited?
  • It is interesting to note that the NRA of the 1920s and 1930s proposed gun legislation based on the following three goals:
    1. no concealed handguns in public without a permit from the local police
    2. required gun dealers to report to law enforcement every sale of a handgun
    3. imposed a two-day waiting period on handgun sales.
  • Embracing the anarchistic wild west mythology will not create stability and safety. The west was tamed by law enforcement which resulted in far fewer people carrying firearms. Arming more citizens is a giant leap backwards.

Expanded background checks for gun purchases: The theory here is that guns too easily land in the hands of criminals or mentally unstable individuals. By mandating that ALL weapon’s purchases require an official background check, only sane and law abiding citizens will be able to carry assault rifles and concealed weapons.

On the face of it, this seems like a move in the right direction. However, we can never predict when a sane person hits a bump in the road. Here’s a potential scenario to consider: My beloved neighbor is hurt in a car accident and falls victim to pain relievers; life spirals out of control for him. He’s got a house full of AR-15s, purchased when he was in fine shape. Now, however, he is prone to fits of rage and paranoia. But he has all those weapons . . . .

It’s the second amendment, Stupid! Yes. This is the bomb, isn’t it? We can argue till the cows turn purple about how to interpret this amendment and its reference to an armed militia. I thought I was paying taxes to support my armed militia in the form of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and all their various components. Some Americans apparently feel that they, as individuals, are also part of a universal American militia. Have they received training in weapons management, anger control, situational assessment, or crowd dispersal? If we are paying taxes for military protection, why should non-military citizens carry assault weapons?

I suspect an inherent fear of our own government underpins this philosophy. While I agree that our government is guilty of many horrendous gaps in logic and ethics and that we must keep our eyes on what is going on in the government, I do not believe that arming ourselves against our government is possible or logical. Where is every citizen going to store their armored tank? How will we ever afford the fuel to run an armored tank for every family or even for every city block? How will we manage the nuclear and chemical weaponry necessary to fight off our well-stocked government? It’s a ludicrous notion.

The weapon we hold to rein in our government is the ballot box. Yeah, I know, it’s not as quick, as final, nor as satisfying as a vote with gun. Our government was designed to be of the people and for the people. That means the people must step up to the plate and take ownership, do the hard work of citizenship. It goes deeper than the ballot box. Don’t like what’s going on? Stop whining and pointing a finger. Go to a city council meeting; you may be there most of the night, but you will see your government in action and you will learn a lot about the process and sacrifices involved in governing. Sit on a local board or an agency. Run for office, volunteer, observe a trial, participate in a jury summons rather than dreaming up reasons to be excused.

We will never be able to protect ourselves from our government by laying in a supply of ammunition and weaponry. As retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal says, assault weapons belong in the hands of the military, not in the hands of everyday citizens.  “The number of people killed by firearms is extraordinary compared to other nations. I don’t think we’re a bloodthirsty culture, and we need to look at everything we can do to safeguard our people.”

I don’t know the answer to how we should move forward as a nation.  I am all for my friends collecting guns for their own use: for hunting, for target practice, for the sheer mechanical genius of the machine. However, I also believe that assault weapons have no place in a civilized society. The issue of gun violence in America is many faceted. The problems weave around each other: exposure to and condoning of violence as entertainment, poor reasoning skills, poor self-control, poor mental-health management, poor diet, poverty, misinformation and miscommunication. I hope we will be able to open our minds and our hearts, to listen to each other with respect and honesty, and to create new solutions to a problem that has been growing exponentially for 30 years.

Have you thought of any new solutions to this old problem?