Civility, respect are both necessary for gun-related progressions

Bill Thomas, A&E Editor

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

That is the actual text of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. While it seems straightforward enough, it’s actually pretty vague when you think about it. Constitutionalist die-hards would argue that this text should be honored to the letter.

Nevertheless, as a society, we’ve already made exceptions. The private possession of thermonuclear warheads, for instance, is illegal. Few people (one would hope) are likely to argue in favor of them. Therefore, the door to debate about what other “arms” should be regulated, regardless of the guarantees of the Second Amendment, is left wide open.

First things first, this debate is not, as some would have you believe, an argument over “guns or no guns.” No one but the most radical left-wing extremists is arguing for the wholesale banning of all guns. It’s ironic that many gun-owners speak lip-service to the cause of education over regulation, yet fail to educate themselves on the exact parameters of the very issue they’re debating.

To clarify once again: No one is talking about taking all your guns away from you. This isn’t an “all or nothing” debate. It’s a discussion about how much regulation there should be. If you agree with the idea that assault rifles have no place in the hands of everyday, noncombatant citizens, then you’re on the wrong side of the argument. If you’re in favor of stricter, more meticulous background checks, then, once again, you’re on the wrong side of the argument.

The problem, it seems, is that gun-owners feel persecuted. They seem to think that gun control advocates blame them and their beloved weapons for the horrors of the world. When tragedies like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings occur, gun-owners bristle and immediately counter the outcry for greater regulation by pointing out that culpability falls to the individuals involved and that guns themselves are not inherently bad (this despite the fact that guns literally have no other purpose but to destroy).

There is truth in the gun-owners’ argument. At the same time, does that mean efforts should not be made to make it more difficult for the mentally unhinged to get their hands on such weapons as the legally-obtained Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle that James Eagan Holmes used to murder 12 and injure another 58 in an Aurora, Colo. multiplex during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” last year? Why make it easier for wrong-doers to do wrong?

The old adage of “if you outlaw X then only outlaws will have X” has never made much sense, except as an argument for out-and-out anarchism. It’s useless as an argument against regulation, or even banning, as it blatantly ignores all the other things the American government has outlawed. It seems to imply that nothing should be outlawed at all.

If you outlaw guns (which, again, no one is talking about doing), then only outlaws will have them. True. But if you outlaw heroin, then only outlaws will buy, sell and use heroin. If you outlaw rape, then only outlaws will commit rape. Should these things not be outlawed? The logic falls apart almost instantaneously.

Of course, logic isn’t the problem. Refusal to recognize logic is. This applies to those on both sides of the aisle, though, not just the gun-owners. More could and should be done to elevate debate to a more civilized level, where important statistics are not demeaned as “little factoids” and mud is not slung. But the road goes both ways. Both gun control advocates and gun ownership advocates have to want to have this debate in a civilized, respectful way for anything to happen.

Sadly, with American politics being what they are, for now it looks like that’s just not in the cards.


This editorial is part 2 of a 2-part debate between A&E Editor Bill Thomas and Life Editor Anne Yoskoski. To read part 1, click here.