In the New Yorker, Jill Lepore writes about the history of guns, the NRA and how the interpretation of the Second Amendment has changed over the course of American history. The National Rifle Association was founded in 1871 and spent most of its history focused on hunting and sport. It didn’t get political and begin its aggressive opposition to gun-control legislation until the 1970′s. The idea that an individual citizen has a Second Amendment right to keep and own a gun for self-protection or protection of property is a new phenomena that’s been pushed by the NRA. Lepore cites former Chief Justice Warren Berger saying that this interpretation of the Second Amendment is “one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
But Lepore’s most compelling passage is about the state of the gun debate in the face recent school shootings and the Trayvon Martin killing.
One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. As long as a candid discussion of guns is impossible, unfettered debate about the causes of violence is unimaginable. Gun-control advocates say the answer to gun violence is fewer guns. Gun-rights advocates say that the answer is more guns: things would have gone better, they suggest, if the faculty at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Chardon High School had been armed. That is the logic of the concealed-carry movement; that is how armed citizens have come to be patrolling the streets. That is not how civilians live. When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted the video of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum campaigning at an Iowa brewery where he talked an awful lot about the beers he likes and dislikes. Because he seemed like he was showing off his beer knowledge to prove what a down-to-earth and tough guy he is, I joked, “Maybe he’ll be the first candidate to have a photo-op on a hunting trip.”
The video below isn’t a photo-op, but with just a week and a day from that interview to the Iowa Caucuses, Santorum spent a lot of air-time on Fox News talking about pheasant kills.
After beer and guns, is there anything else he needs to say to prove he’s a manly man, and therefore, fit to be the president?
Sitting by the computer after making the perfect cup of English tea, I am still amazed (for lack of a better word) at the breakout of riots across the UK. Over the past few days I have been scratching my head as looters took advantage of London neighborhoods like Brixton, Hackney, and Lewisham, and other British cities like Birmingham, Liverpool, and Leeds. I sit back in disgust and outrage as an American viewing from overseas, but also as a person who has lived and traveled throughout the UK.
The shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old father of four, is what sparked the initially peaceful protest in Tottenham, London. People in the neighborhood were protesting unlawful and aggressive acts by police. (It is now known that Duggan did not fire a shot at police.) Somehow, on Saturday, August 6, the protest turned violent and the people protesting started to assault police on the scene. The protest went from throwing sticks and bottles to lighting vehicles on fire and smashing the windows of shops. I do not condone violence but there was definitely tension in the neighborhood between police and residents. The police did not take the right steps to calm the crowd.
Some chatter on Twitter by bloggers, journalists, and others has said that riots could start in the United States over the current situation plaguing our country. We have gun violence in schools, millions not covered by health care, rising unemployment, and a government caught up in its own nauseating partisanship fight. The victims in all of these are the working and middle class. So, why haven’t there been riots across the United States like those over in the United Kingdom? There are several reasons.
Investigators are still trying to determine exactly why Jared Lee Loughner allegedly killed six and wounded 13, including Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, at a supermarket in Tucson. Gun control is usually debated when mass shootings occur, but they don’t usually cause significant changes in gun laws. Whether or not the shooting was politically motivated, this should be a moment when Americans should look at ourselves and ask, “Why are guns so important?”
I’m not talking about a debate about gun laws, though that’s important, too. I’m talking about exploring why guns are so important to so many Americans. It’s not enough to say, “Guns are a part of our culture.” Why are they and violence a part of our culture? In a country where there is a gun for nearly every person, why are some people resistant to reasonable restrictions for firearm purchases? Why do some people feel the need to carry guns on them all the time, like Texas Gov. Rick Perry who carries a handgun while jogging? What motivates these men in Northern Virginia, a relatively high income, low crime area, to think that a criminal with a gun is around every corner, and therefore feel they must openly carry guns on their hips?
I always got the feeling that machismo influences some of the more vocal and passionate guns rights supporters. Guns are powerful. They can extinguish lives. What better way to show strength than to hold that lethal power in one’s hands or strap it to one’s waist? The need to show that strength and power indicates a fear of something. Maybe it’s an insecurity about oneself. Maybe it’s fear of the government or fear of the guy down the block. Michael Moore explored the link between guns and the “fearful heart and soul of the United States” in his film Bowling For Columbine. Until we examine and confront that fear of the unknown, often fueled by imagination, guns will continue to be plentiful and there will be more shootings like the one in Tucson.
Lastly, a sad bit of irony: One of the first pieces of business for the new Congress this week was to vote on the repeal of healthcare reform. That, along with other House business, has been postponed because of the Tucson shooting. Many of the same congressmen who want to roll back healthcare reform support laws that allow the easy purchase of firearms. We have to re-evaluate our priorities. As a country, we need to figure out why so many feel that providing healthcare for every citizen is an American nightmare, but the reality of firearms for nearly every citizen is an American ideal.
Proposition 8 – that banned same-sex marriage in California – was overturned in federal court, but it will may be a while before gay and lesbian couples will be walking down the aisle. [SFGate]
“You vote in favor of something if you believe it’s the right thing. If you believe it’s the wrong thing, you vote no.” Sounds simple, right? Not in Congress, and sadly, not when it comes to giving additional healthcare to first responders and others affected from dust and debris due to the 9/11 attacks. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) passionately sets Congress straight.
Hef the activist? A documentary premieres this month that paints Playboy founder Hugh Hefner as a Civil Rights Activist. Skeptical? Check out this article and let me know what you think below. [The Root]
The Appleseed Project teaches participants how to shoot targets at 500 yards just in case the “revolution” comes. Where does this fear of Teotwawki (the end of the world as we know it) come from? [New York Times Magazine]
Cheerleading may be competitive, but it will never be a sport. [Double X]