The home and school shooting in Newtown, Conn., has done what other senseless and avoidable high-profile murders starting with Columbine did not do. There is a perceptible mood change about our relationship with guns; people are fed up and want meaningful action so that this doesn't happen again.
President Obama seems to be listening and has requested an actionable plan to be put on his desk in January.
The NRA, on the other hand doesn't seem to be listening. The nation's leading gun organization, in their response to the recent massacre, linked gun violence to a series of triggers in society, such as violent video games, movies and other forms of entertainment that glorify violence, but not actual guns. The NRA called for armed security guards in schools which is an impractical suggestion. Their refusal to link shootings to the availability of guns showed their lack of leadership and effectively took them out of the debate.
The operative language that seems to be in the air is gun control; an imprecise term at a time when clarity is needed.
There is talk about banning semiautomatic assault rifles, high capacity clips, closing the sales loophole at gun shows and having more rigorous background checks. All of these proposals come with the caveat that they are not a panacea to prevent future mass shootings, and with an implicit understanding that they would not have prevented the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The guns Adam Lanza used to kill 27 people didn't belong to him and were purchased legally by his mother and first victim, Nancy Lanza.
Understanding that all guns are lethal, that even low-capacity clips can be changed rapidly, and that technology moves forward in unimaginable ways -- which means its not inconceivable that in the future, we will be able to print guns with the 3-D printers from files that can be emailed. Clearly, we need to go further than these common sense first steps; to regulate, license and train people who own guns so that they are used and stored safely.
Let's look at the legal basis for Americas gun culture; the constitution. And let's stop pussy-footing around the fact that enacting a series of smart sensible regulations and licensing requirements on gun ownership is not otherwise possible.
The constitution is a living document that we can and have changed in the past in both writing and meaning and it's something I think should be explored again now given the seriousness of this event, and the loss of freedoms that we are facing in its aftermath. If we don't update our understanding of the 2nd amendment we will see the normalization of personal searches through a series of human, electronic and radiological means when we enter public space and private public space such as malls, movie theaters and sporting events, offices, schools, houses of worship and transportation hubs. Does anyone really want de-humanizing "airport security" to spread to other parts of society? Does anyone think it will work to protect us from lunatics with guns?
How much of our freedom are we willing to give up in order to protect the 2nd amendment? Specifically, are we willing to weaken the 4th amendment and infringe on our unalienable right to pursue life, liberty and happiness in order to hold the 2nd amendment sacrosanct?
Remember the words All men are created equal; they were written when slavery was legal and people were bought, sold and traded as property. In fact, these words were written by men who owned slaves. When the constitution was written women were not allowed to vote. And when the 2nd amendment was written, we were fighting the British with muskets and there was no established state and urban police forces to protect citizens. Times change, meanings change.
Today we fight nonstate actors with remote control drones. We now also subcontract militia work to private for-profit armies like Academi (Blackwater's new name). I don't believe the founders had in mind private armies when they wrote about the ability to form militias as prescribed in the 2nd amendment. It is understood that the right to bear arms does not allow someone to own and operate surface to air missiles, or anti-aircraft guns, hand grenades, or machine guns.
There were other changes to the Constitution all of which made our country stronger except for the 18th amendment which banned the sale of alcohol -- which was then repealed by the 21st amendment. A good example that even if a change doesn't work out, there is a mechanism to address it.
I'm not sure if changing the 2nd amendment is the right thing to do but I know in the past when we have it's always been for the better and if we are truly serious about freedom, and putting a stop to gun violence which takes 30,000 Americans' lives every year, we have to at least give ourselves permission to talk about it. And as we do, let's remember that the 2nd amendment is in service to our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness and not the other way around.