Let’s put that statement into context: The year is 1783. “Arms” are single shot, muzzle loaded pistols and muskets. Militias — citizen soldiers armed with these weapons — played a crucial role in the fight for liberty.
After the Revolution, the Founders were highly suspicious of a standing army. They knew first-hand England’s was used to keep King George’s subjects in line as much as to fight wars, so they disbanded most of the Continental Army.
The Founders believed, incorrectly, future conflicts could be fought by militias. So these units might be mobilized quickly, citizen soldiers required their own muskets and pistols.
This context is everything when the gun lobby or people like state Rep.-elect Charles Gregory (R-Kennesaw) start bellowing about “freedom” and their Second Amendment rights.
The Founders could not imagine the kind of firepower sold in gun stores today. And they could never envision how a lone maniac would use such weapons, this time around to slaughter 20 little children and six heroic women.
The gun lobby and the political allies it funds have twisted the Amendment’s original context to justify the sale of such weapons. To them, profits always supersede public safety.
Out here in Big Sky Country, I have many friends who enjoy hunting deer, elk and antelope, but they never use assault weapons with high capacity magazines to bag a buck. They hunt with bolt action rifles and even bow and arrow. They might pack a side arm for protection against bear or mountain lion attacks.
Responsible sportsmen respect their quarry and want the game to have a fighting chance, so they wouldn’t think of blasting 20 rounds into a deer with a Bushmaster. And isn’t target shooting all about marksmanship, not how many rounds you can fire in three seconds?
Gun lovers who think having an armory at home will protect them from government oppression live in a Ted Nugent-inspired fever swamp.
If the sort of apocalypse they imagine ever happens, it will most likely be led by renegade right-wing military officers, not Greenpeace.
Assault weapons have only one purpose; to kill human beings. To that lethal end, the $32 billion gun industry has been extremely efficient, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. From 2007 to 2009, the U.S. averaged 10,987 homicides per year by firearm, compared with an average of 182 in Germany, 75 in Spain and 47 in the United Kingdom.
Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association’s obfuscating mouthpiece, predictably blames the news media and “elites,” but not easy access to automatic weapons and ammo.
LaPierre claims movies and games led to the slaughter in Newtown, but people see violent entertainment in Germany, Spain and the U.K., where, coincidently, there are also strict gun safety laws and free mental health care.
LaPierre’s solution is armed cops in our 98,000 public schools. Very well, let the gun manufacturers pay for all that security to protect children from their deadly products. They can also cover the cost of armed police in theaters, malls, restaurants, universities and every other place where mass gun murder has or can happen.
The little coffins in Connecticut demand we pass sensible gun safety legislation.
Ban assault rifles, close the gun show loophole and limit magazine capacity, but also repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that shields gun manufacturers from liability when their products are used to massacre people.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.