A Lamentation

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O God, do you see this?
I do not ask why an all-powerful, all-knowing, ever present God has allowed the tragedy of the mass killings in Newtown Connecticut. I do not ask why 20 children and 8 adults are dead at the intersection of mental illness and semi-automatic assault weapons. God gives human beings free will. So, my cry is a human cry to humanity. The correct question is: why do we allow this?
The National Rifle Association continues to insist that easy access to semi-automatic weapons is not the reason for the series of mass shootings that this nation has witnessed. Their spokespeople claim that culture, mental illness, and not enough guns in schools are responsible for the recent tragedies. Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, says the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Such thinking is nonsense. Bullets cannot tell a good guy from a bad guy, and there is no guarantee that when the smoke clears, the good guy will be the one left standing.
We have genuflected too deeply and given too much power to a misanthropic, misinterpretation of the second amendment of the United States Constitution. A fusion of past, present and future horizons provides a necessary context for a correct interpretation of this amendment. When we consider the past, it is important to know that the founders thought that a standing army was a threat to liberty. They thought it would be too costly.
This was the historical moment of citizen soldiers who would take up arms when a specific threat arose. Moreover, the idea was the citizen soldier would be a part of “[a] well regulated militia.” Writing about the bill of rights, James Madison said government existed: “for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the right of acquiring and using property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.”
The founders believed in natural rights that inhered in our humanity before the establishment of positive law. Such rights included: conscience, religion, property, happiness and safety, speaking, writing, publishing, peaceable assembly, and petition of government. The purpose of the second amendment is “the security of a free state.” Its purpose is not to protect the individual from the government. All of our friends who interpret the US Constitution according to its original intent ought to understand that it does not give ordinary citizens an unlimited right to bear arms. One could argue that only those who are members of their state’s national guard have the right to keep and bear arms.
Madison understood that the threat to liberty was not the government; rather it was the tyranny of the majority. He wrote:
“The prescriptions in favor of liberty ought to be leveled against that quarter where the greatest danger lies, namely, that which possesses the highest prerogative or power. But this is not found in either the Executive or Legislative departments of Government, but in the body of the people, operating by the majority against the minority.”
I say: the threats to our liberty, to our happiness and safety as a nation, are the tyranny of fear and the tyranny of the gun.
Fast forward to the present. We have local and state police forces, state national guards, and the largest most expensive military in human history. No individual citizen or group of citizens organized in unregulated militias can out-gun the United States of America. Further, assault weapons and high capacity magazines designed for use in war are now used by mentally unbalanced individuals to commit mass murder. Most of these weapons were obtained legally.
These are weapons of mass destruction that violate our right to happiness and safety. The guns that some say are necessary for our personal protection are the instruments of sorrow and death. And, let us be clear the problem we face as a nation is the proliferation of guns. Fareed Zakaria described the difference between the United States and other nations when it comes to gun control. The United States is a sad exception in the world. And our fetish for guns is killing our children. (http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/24/how-to-fix-our-gun-problem/)
The future horizon is our vision of what ought to be. We get to the ought by taking a hard look at what is and saying: “not this.” As our love goes out to the families of the 20 children and the 6 adults shot dead in Newtown, our radical love goes out to the family of the killer and his mother, his first victim. We ought to envision a future and a society that does not use assault weapons for either recreation or the deception that they protect us. These instruments of death are not toys.
It is time that we insist that our lawmakers pass laws that outlaw semi-automatic weapons, that they outlaw high capacity magazines, that they close the gun show loophole, and that they institute a buy-back program for all guns. Our government belongs to the people, not to the NRA and to gun manufacturers. The way to protect ourselves from the tyranny of fear and of the gun is to vote out of office lawmakers who will not pass such laws.
When we see the daily death toll in our country because of guns, we say: “Not this.”