First off, I know we already had a gun debate on this blog, and I am not necessarily looking for another one. Instead, I want to comment on the way we go about the gun debate, particularly the way it is discussed by, you guessed it, our politicians and our media. I will also say that I hope that if another debate arises, that it can be as clean and respectful as our previous one, as we acknowledge that in the end we all want what's best for our country.
Once again I will emphasize that I am not really interested in talking about guns, but rather I am interested in the way that politicians and the media talk about them, and whether it can be done in a more productive way. And now to dissentate.
I think the gun debate is too focused on the Second Amendment - literally, on the fact that it exists - as opposed to being focused on guns. While there are valid arguments for gun rights, most people who believe in them would rather just remind us that we have the Second Amendment. I would even say that people who continuously mention the Second Amendment are hiding behind it, and for no reason, since there are, I think, valid substantive arguments about gun rights.
Take John McCain for example. Now I think McCain is a smart guy and I can only hope to eventually provide a fraction of the service to my country that he has provided. But what about this quote about the VA Tech shooting:
"We have to look at what happened here, but it doesn’t change my views on the Second Amendment, except to make sure that these kinds of weapons don’t fall into the hands of bad people."
These are the words of a guy who is so focused on mentioning the Second Amendment that he doesn't even care what the rest of the sentence is as long as it includes the words "Second Amendment." I mean, look at the sentence, it makes no sense! Taken literally, it means that the shooting changed his views on the Second Amendment, unless I misunderstand the word except. What changed? Now he thinks that weapons shouldn't fall into the hands of bad people. This is a new belief for him. Now he couldn't have possibly meant that, but I think the quote does seem to illustrate my argument that all of this talk about the Second Amendment is taking the focus off of the substance and actually looking at the facts about guns in our society.
"I do believe in the constitutional right that everyone has, in the Second Amendment to the Constitution, to carry a weapon."
This is just a kind of fancy way of saying "I believe that the Constitution exists, and a part of that Constitution is something called the Second Amendment, which I also believe, exists." I believe that too, but I don't think it says anything helpful to the debate.
We need to get the focus off of the Second Amendment and start talking about the facts about our country's current state of affairs. This is the only way to determine a sensible middle ground between outlawing all guns and making guns as easy to buy as cigarettes. The Second Amendment prohibits the former solution (at least for the Federal Government), and common sense prohibits the latter. But the Second Amendment doesn't really provide us with any further answers or guidance. Thus it is up to us to look at our experiences, and to respectfully debate based on what we have seen happen in our country over the last decade or so, and what are the best policies to keep us as free and safe (two goals that are often at odds with each other) as possible.
Although I am not optimistic for reasons to do with the current style of political and journalistic discourse, I hope we can leave the Second Amendment in its rightful place, and start talking about the substantive issues.