FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
To grab or not to grab … guns? That is the question.
This morning a friend sent me an article about the Sikh Temple murders in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The article describes how the president of the temple attempted to fight back against the murderer – with a butter knife.
On Sunday, he died standing up to the horror of a gunman’s attack on his house of worship in the Milwaukee suburb of Oak Creek. Kaleka, 65, managed to find a simple butter knife in the temple and tried to stab the shooter before being shot twice near the hip or upper leg, his son said Monday.
Of course a butter knife is probably not going to do much against a 9mm semi-automatic. But Kaleka did fight back heroically in the only way he knew of at the time. My friend’s comment indicated that this incident demonstrated the fallacy of gun control, implying that gun control means that victims only have rudimentary weapons (like butter knives) at their disposal in a situation where a concealed handgun could well have stopped the murderer. This, of course is the argument that “Gun Nuts” – Second Amendment & concealed carry supporters – often make in these situations…more guns in the pockets of law-abiding citizens will be a deterrent and would give the ability to cut such episodes short.
The opposite argument comes from the “Gun Grabbers” – “If guns were outlawed, this kind of incident would never happen”. When posed with the sticky problem of the Second Amendment, their response is “The Founders never imagined that such deadly weapons would be available to commit these heinous crimes”. Really?
In the 1776 timeframe, the musket was a far deadlier weapon than the bow & arrow, spear or the other weapons that were common with the Native American population. Surely they had this in mind when they wrote the amendment, say the Grabbers. But what of the revolver or the repeating rifle? They were the 1800s’ equivalents of the musket – much more lethal than the single-shot smooth-bore, muzzle-loaded musket. Many bad guys AND good guys fell dead at the hands of a Navy Colt. What about the Thompson submachine gun that was popular during Prohibition? The Tommy Gun was illegal, yet the mobsters of the early 20th century had little difficulty obtaining them and using them in crimes around the nation. Yet the Second Amendment and private citizen gun ownership has survived these times.
But, “militia!”, says the Gun Grabbers. The Second Amendment speaks of a militia – an army. We don’t have militias, therefore we don’t need to own firearms, they say. But the Founders understood this.
“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”
Co-author of the Second Amendment
during Virginia’s Convention to Ratify the Constitution, 1788
“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms; …”
quoted in the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789, “Propositions submitted to the Convention of this State”
“Firearms stand next in importance to the constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence … from the hour the Pilgrims landed to the present day, events, occurences and tendencies prove that to ensure peace security and happiness, the rifle and pistol are equally indispensable … the very atmosphere of firearms anywhere restrains evil interference — they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good.”
First President of the United States
“To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
Richard Henry Lee
American Statesman, 1788
My intent here, however, is not to defend either position…which is why I used somewhat crude names for both sides of the argument. I bring up this point because every single time an incident such as the Aurora, CO or Oak Creek shootings occur, these debates rear their ugly heads again…usually within seconds of the shootings (search Twitter for #templeshooting if you doubt this…).
Support for gun control has waned since a peak in the 1998 timeframe. In fact, last year Pew reported that the % of Americans who support gun control is virtually the same as the % who support gun ownership rights. And polls run shortly after the Aurora, CO movie theater massacre show no change in attitude on gun control. And the debate rages.
Does it matter?
John Wayne Gacy did not shoot his victims. Timothy McVey killed his victims with fertilizer. The 9/11 terrorists used knives and airplanes filled with jet fuel. Cain murdered Abel without a gun.
Christian theology teaches that original sin was introduced to the world by the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Death was introduced at that point, and it will be with us until Jesus returns (and let’s not get into eschatology, please…) As long as there are fallen people, there will be sin, violence, death… and murder. People will find ways – some that are unimaginable – to kill other people.
Do automatic weapons make murder easier? Sometimes, yes…but there are much more efficient ways to commit mass murder than using a machine gun. Do concealed carry laws save lives and avoid murders? In some situations, yes…in some, no. Would Satwant Singh Kaleka still be alive if he had had a Glock? Maybe. If *I* had a handgun, I’m not sure *I* could bring myself to pull the trigger. Who can know unless they’re in that situation?
The argument about gun control will never be won. Ever. It’s been going on ever since there were guns and a Second Amendment, and it’s not likely to change any time soon. Both sides will speculate about the impact of reduced numbers of guns on the street and the impact of concealed weapons in more citizens’ pockets.
And there will still be murders, with guns or without. AK-47s or muskets or switchblades or perhaps even butter knives.
Until the End.