THE BLOG
12/17/2012 06:46 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

Alienable Rights

Writing about the Sandy Hook tragedy is, at this point, likely to be repetitive, not that repetition isn't justified in this case. However, there are aspects that may not be getting sufficient emphasis.

The single most important is the politics of the situation, abetted by the actions of the courts. Why are assault weapons and high-capacity magazines available? Because of NRA money and political clout in the so-called gun enthusiast states, even the less gun-friendly Democratic party tends to run candidates who are in sympathy with the NRA and will not stand up to concepts of gun ownership that make no sense. Neither party will risk losing seats or dollars to change the status quo.

For four hundred years, wars were fought with gunpowder and single-shot weapons. Despite the need to reload after each shot, enough mayhem to satisfy even the most rabid gun enthusiast was created. That competition forced the evolution of firearms is understandable. That military weapons needed to translate into the civilian market is not.

Reducing the firepower available to the average citizen is the only avenue we can currently travel down to try to lessen the likelihood of such tragedies. Violence in the media is regrettable, but censorship issues become so complex that courts would be snarled until the end of time and will do us benefit. Video games would be lumped in, and aren't going to go away, either.

The mental health catastrophe in this country is also beyond a simple solution because the problem is much broader than non-professionals are willing to comprehend, and because so much money would be involved in adequately addressing it. We have nowhere near the number of professionals to deal with the problem adequately, anyway.

So, we're left face to face with the Second Amendment. Let's go ahead and swallow the dunderheaded interpretations of the amendment that have helped create the current situation, and then say, "So what?" We are overlooking that there are no inalienable rights that aren't modified in law because of the natural tendency for people to push their selfishness until someone pushes back. There is an old Yiddish expression: "If you let a pig on the chair, he jumps on the table." Isn't it time to pull the gun pigs off the table?

This is a simple two-step process. New laws are necessary. Why new laws? We often say that enforcing laws already on the books would be sufficient. Not so. Except for occasional exceptions, such as New York City's Sullivan Law, most attempts at gun legislation are deficient. Go whole hog. There will never be a more favorable atmosphere for passing such legislation than there is now. Eliminate clips and magazines that hold more than five or six rounds. Make private ownership of weapons not obviously adaptable to target shooting, hunting, and home protection unlawful. Put in lengthy background checks. Dare any congressperson or senator to oppose the legislation. Make such legislators stand up on CSPAN and explain his or her position (although I doubt any mother in government would make the argument).

Then move on to the courts. The argument is simple and has two parts. First, there is the "public good" argument that even curbs the First Amendment. Then emphasize the fact that the Second Amendment is still in place, and prevents the "slippery slope" argument from having traction. After all, no one rigorously goes after an amendment that has so obviously outlived its original purpose, or whose language is so sloppy. The "militia" portion of the amendment has no modern relevance, and neither of the words "keep" or "bear" strictly means ownership, no matter how strongly that is implied. Jurists with any guts would simply be approving laws, not legislating from the bench.

Never has striking a hot iron been more important. The fiscal cliff can wait, or maybe averted with the efficiency that is supposed to be applied in finishing important business. Either way, it is time to hold our politicians and jurists to account. There is enough precedent and common sense to quickly put powerful legislation in place. After all, we're a gun society. Our nation was born under the specter of the gun. We understand the nuances. We know what needs to be done. Let us demand action now. After all, guns aren't the only things that kill people. Politicians and jurists do, also.

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