Apr 282003
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

A pacifist’s struggle with the 2nd Amendment

The Second Amendment. Probably one of the most debated sections of the Constitution today. There are those who believe that the Constitution was written in a certain time, dealing with specific issues, and that because we now have a standing military, the “well regulated militia” is outdated and citizens should not be armed (for our own sakes).

There are those who believe that the Constitution’s writers intended the document to be flexible enough to grow as the nation grows, and that even as we do not need a militia per se, the right to bear arms is still protected. We have the right for protection from each other and/or the government. Somewhere in here are the hunters who may or may not own a handgun to compliment their rifles.

There are those who believe that the Constitution does not guarantee the right to bear arms. Rather, it is meant to protect the citizens of their already inherent human liberty; any restrictions in gun ownership and control are an infringement on that inherent human right. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

I grew up in a family that hunted most of our meat. I was raised with venison and rifles in the house. When I was 12, I became hunter safety certified, and shot my first firearm. I hated it, and chose not to join my parents and sister on the winter hunting excursions. (Besides that, I was a much better shot with the bow and arrow).

Then came that April day in 1999. I was three miles from the school, working in a place in which a good 10 percent of the employees were like me, Columbine alumni; another 35 percent had siblings or children who were currently attending. The workplace shut down as everyone remained glued to the news, or their phones, trying to find some hint that their loved one was OK. The days after left my neighborhood in a stunned shock. A mourning. A questioning. An outrage.

Fifteen dead; 12 students, one teacher, and the two young perpetrators. Many spent hours at the makeshift memorial at Clement Park, and those of us who personally knew the victims (and many who just wanted to somehow make sense of it), attended their funerals.

And always the question. How did these two students so easily get a hold of a semi-automatic pistol, two sawed-off shotguns, and a semi-automatic assault rifle? Thus the issue of gun control is brought to the table. But is it legal? If so, how much?

There are those who would like to see the banning of firearms altogether. Second amendment aside, is this realistic? Even if you could somehow confiscate the guns (or maybe just certain types of firearms, like semi-automatic weapons) that the citizens hold, there would always be those who would never relinquish them. And then, as they say, only outlaws would own guns.

What about other restrictions? Registration, heavy taxing, licenses, etc. Most people nowadays agree with the need for such government control and regulation. Then there are those who remember the deaths of 87 Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, 10 years ago. An offense that would have most likely garnered probation turned into an ‘incident’ in which America used tanks against its own citizens for the first time in history.

Perhaps if the Davidians had only followed the letter of the law, paying all their taxes on those firearms, then there would have been no need for the ATF to go storming into the compound, igniting the standoff. But then, the Branch Davidians were no trouble to anyone. They kept to themselves and wanted nothing more than to be left alone. If there had not been so many strict government regulations, then there would have been no grounds for the ATF action in the first place.

It is like one of those optical illusions, where you can either see the vase or the two faces, but not both at the same time. How can this issue be resolved? Is it a matter of giving up some liberty for degrees of safety? Or is the right of the individual’s liberty worth more than the safety of a community? What is worth fighting for? What is worth dying for?

There are no easy answers. I am a pacifist, and I get nervous around the sight and sound of a mechanism that is strictly designed to kill. But the way the Constitution is written (whatever the interpretation), I find it difficult to argue with the rights of others to bear arms for one reason.

If the government can take away the rights protected in the Second Amendment, then what is to stop them from taking away those protected by the First? Would I be allowed to write this column?

Would you be allowed to read it?

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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