Saturday, January 12, 2013

A bit of gun thought

Vice president Biden met with the nra today. Apparently it didn't go well. It makes me a bit sad that the nra, as powerful as it is, has taken to stamping its feet shutting its ears and shifting the blame. I want to emphasize a few points about gun violence in this country.

The first is that we all share some guilt in our complacency when dealing with our criminal justice system as a whole. We have the largest prisoner population in the world. Not because we have more criminals but because we have created a defunct system unable to fully address this country's difficulties. It is our responsibility as citizens of a democratic society to address our problems and not put them off.

And this is where I can't reconcile the stated position of the nra.

Their solution is to not take any measures to control the sale and distribution of guns. That is, all the problems we face are due to something else. As someone dedicated to open dialogue and solving problems collaboratively I take offense to attitudes that are so vehemently negative. The culture of no accomplishes nothing. Period.

There is a well known improv technique, yes and... That doesn't mean agreement and ovine behavior, it means taking a raw idea and building on it. It means, and I'm going to get mushy, believing someone else cares just as deeply as you about you. And this doesn't happen in an instant; we spend most of our lives putting others on a lower level than ourselves. This takes time. Of course it does.

What I have heard from the nra is not an attitude that even opens the door for time and a real conversation. I am deeply saddened that our vocal gun rights champions have tended to fall in the us against them mentality. The belief that gun control is a precursor to the destruction of liberty.

 As someone who cares deeply about my freedoms I would never sacrifice them to feel a bit safer.

So let's talk about some things that are inarguable.

One: the constitution is a living document.  That means the entire text is open to public debate at all times.  It means that, while rare, the people of the nation can peacefully modify the document to suit our needs better.  In fact, our founders were pretty unanimous that the constitution had to be malleable to some degree.  The fear of course was a wave of Progressive Era style reforms that led to things like prohibition.  I'd like to remind everyone that we survived that time though; women can vote and people can drink.  Some things are good--others not so much.  It's the radical experiment that is this nation.

Two: rights have limits.  Can't yell fire in a burning building, and that is not an infringement on the first amendment.  Similarly, there are on most of the other amendments that have been ruled on by the Supreme Court.  It is not unreasonable to suggest that by further fleshing out the meaning of the second amendment in the three branches of government, we could conceivably bring into focus the full extent of the second amendment.  A process we have started but are far from completing.

Three: the rule of law in this country precludes any revolution style arguments.  The constitution cannot protect anyone from rising up against their government.  Under no scenarios could it be realistic to use the constitution to defend what is otherwise an act of treason.

Four: The constitution prevents tyrannical government in many non-treasonous ways. All of the other articles of the constitution have created for us a system of government whereby we the people govern.  Remember that.  We the people govern.  That means a system--often slow and conservative--of government that keeps any one man from carving out enough power to be a jerk.  Things like the separation of powers, the Federal system of government, government agencies, and frequent direct elections keep us reasonably safe from traditional forms of tyranny.  When those means fail, so too does our right to bear arms.  To fight for one's causes at that level is to ignore the far more robust rights we have been guaranteed, and regularly exercise to prevent oppression.

Five: This needs to be a conversation.  Failure to talk is failure to participate in government--democratic government, and that includes listening.

So yeah, that about gets it for me for right now.