Different shades of gray
Each month the Sun Advocate presents two views of the same subject as columnists Terry Willis and Tom McCourt see it.
After the smoke clears
After every tragedy that involves civilians killing other civilians the clamor for gun control clash with the forces that want less restrictions and more armed individuals.
Although there are many of us who are somewhere in the middle the debate can polarize those who choose to take sides as much as any topic we could think of.
I grew up with a big shotgun hiding in my closet. My father never used it that I can remember. They told us not to touch it, but we snuck quick pokes at it every so often and were terrified that it would go off unprovoked because we didn't know better. I had to qualify with both a rifle and hand gun in basic training for the Navy and I could take them or leave them. Fortunately for me I didn't really need to be armed to do my job of tracking Russian subs.
I got married and got shot at. I left that relationship with an anger towards the person who used the weapon and a desire not to have much to do with fire arms. But life and attitudes change. My current husband owns several guns and is active in a shooting organization. I know that guns don't kill people, people do. It's a trite saying but technically true.
I don't think guns should be banned from our society, they have a place and a purpose. But what I don't get is the hysteria that can go along with any law that is purposed to curb a select weapon type or ammunition. When did our Utah community get so inherently unsafe that people were afraid to attend the state Republican convention a few years back when they were told that federal law prohibited guns there because the vice president of the United States was scheduled to speak.
You never know where a liberal Democrat will be lurking waiting to shoot you.
I am not sure why anyone needs a box of armor piercing bullets unless you are in the military or up to no good. But this was a big deal when law enforcement pleaded to get them banned from sales. And of course who can pass up the chance to own their own AK47 ( modified to meet state and federal laws). I try to understand why we can't ban specific weapons, but the only argument I ever hear is that if we ban one, then it is the first step in destroying our constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Give me a break!
To be honest, we really don't know what our fore fathers intended by the wording of the second amendment. Depending on who is on the bench for the Supreme Court is how it is interpreted. What is true today may not be true in 20 years. Of course that is pretty much the same for all the constitutional amendments.
Right now it is almost political suicide to speak out for any type of fire arms controls. Not because it is the will of the majority. But because it is the will of the NRA. Money can buy you anything.
We can spew statistics all day about which side is right. Facts back up the fact that domestic violence is more likely to turn deadly when there is a gun in the home. It is also a fact that people have saved their own or others lives by owning a gun. What scares me is the laws that are floated that try and require everyone in a town to be armed or that all teachers should go to concealed weapons training and carry to keep our kids safe.
Many of us do not want to shoot someone. I would like to think I would do what it takes to save my life or others, but I just don't know. I would be the wrong person to depend on because I would want to be sure I had no other choice. On the other hand there are people who I have known and some I still know that I would not want around me with a gun when there was something questionable around. The shoot first and decide later mentality is equally as scary.
No I don't want your guns taken away. But I do wish we could have a sane and logical debates on gun issues.
Second amendment dispute
The recent shootings at Virginia Tech were quickly forgotten by the news media. What a surprise. In times past, the story would have been on the front page for months. We would have had news commentators and celebrities calling for more gun laws and firearms registration. There would have been congressional hearings, anti-NRA cartoons, and endless hours of talk show diatribe about the need for "common sense" gun control. But none of that happened this time. Why?
I think it's because 9-11 changed everything. We are at war with international terrorists who target civilians. We saw 3000 of our neighbors murdered on national TV, and we know that terrorists can strike again, anywhere at anytime. A young wanna-be terrorist did the shootings at Trolley Square in Salt Lake City. People in this country are not fools and they want guns for protection. Indeed, an anti-gun stance is political suicide today. There has been a major shift in Democrat political thinking since the 2002 and 2004 election cycles. Gun ownership is a sleeping dog they are willing to step around - for now.
And yet, for years anti-gun politicians have held contrived debates about what the second amendment really means. To honest people, it is not a mystery. Citizens have a right to own guns and the government cannot "infringe," or violate, that right. It is all very clear. The other nine amendments in the Bill of Rights guarantee individual freedoms. Why would only the second amendment be a "collective" right and not an individual right? And besides, when the bill was written, a "militia" was a group of armed citizens who supplied their own guns and ammunition for the common defense.
The modern debate centers more on a person's "need" to own a firearm and less on his "right" to own one. Critics say the Second Amendment is no longer relevant and it should be repealed. Guns are evil and they "cause" violence, we are told. Citizens can't be trusted with guns. Only the police and military should have them. Dictators love that argument.
And why would anyone want to own an AK-47 (modified to meet state and federal laws)? Could it be for the same reason that someone might want to own a Ferrari or a Corvette? If a Volkswagen will get people where they need to go, why do we allow them to own anything else?
And why does a person need more than one gun? Why does a golfer need more than one club, a fisherman more than one pole, or a carpenter more than one saw? Guns come in different sizes, calibers, and configurations, to do different jobs.
And why does the NRA fight so hard against any form of gun control? It's because any concession gives away a constitutional right. If you give up part of your right to free speech, do you still have free speech? It's the camel's nose under the tent scenario. A good example is seat belt laws. Most Utahns didn't want seat belt laws, but we went from public service advisories, to "secondary" enforcement, to "click it - or ticket" in just a few years. The way to avoid creeping legislative restrictions is to make no concessions at the beginning.
And why are some people so against conceal carry laws? Most people have no idea what a process it is to obtain a conceal carry permit. Permit holders register and pay a fee, attend eight hours of instruction, submit to a background check, and give their fingerprints to the FBI. Only trustworthy citizens with flawless backgrounds are allowed permits.
A good guy with a gun can be more valuable than a 911 phone call when bad things are happening fast. Contrast the Trolley Square incident with Columbine. An off duty cop with a gun stopped the murder in Trolley Square in seven minutes. At Columbine, the police response took most of two hours. An armed teacher or school administrator might have made a lot of difference.
Our Constitution guarantees the right to gun ownership and self-defense. The second amendment has nothing to do with hunting, target shooting, or a "need" to own a gun.
It has everything to do with freedom and power in the hands of the people, to take back their government if the need ever arises.