March 27, 2018
MY CORNER by Boyd Cathey
On the Gun Violence Debate: A Conversation with A Student Who Supports New Gun Prohibitions
Back on February 22 of this year I offered a column that dealt with what happened—the school shooting—in Parkland, Florida [http://boydcatheyreviewofbooks.blogspot.com/2018/02/february-22-2018-my-corner-school.html], specifically the ideological use being made of the event. Was it not Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago, once of the Obama administration, who famously said: “You never want a serious crisis go to waste”? And the inflated image of millions of innocent and deeply fearful—and aggrieved—high school and middle school students “spontaneously” organizing and marching on Washington and its assembled politicians this past weekend, as well as doing the same thing in various larger cities across the land, has all the appearances of a mass movement which will not stop until “victory is achieved.”
But what, pray tell, is that goal, that “victory” for these adolescents? “No more guns!” thousands shout. “Ban semi-automatics and raise the age to possess guns from 18 to 21!” others scream. But just how many of these students, most of whom have undergone the bleaching and brainwashing effects of our public school system for years, know exactly what they are protesting? How many have really examined the issue of what now is called “gun violence”? How many truly understand what our Constitution states on the right to possess firearms? How many have any knowledge at all of what the courts, including the Supreme Court, have declared in various cases dealing with the 2nd Amendment—indeed, how many even know what the 2nd Amendment really says and means?
Just recently I had a conversation with a good friend of one of my cousins, a freshman at a nearby university here in North Carolina and a political science major (as well as a graduate of one of the supposedly best public schools in the state).
Here is how the conversation went (I quote from memory, but I think I have done both of us justice):
ME: “You support new laws to make most gun possession illegal?”
STUDENT: “Yes I do. Too many students have been killed brutally by people with guns. It’s got to stop. We need to pass new laws to take guns out of the hands of those persons.”
ME: “But how would you do that?”
STUDENT: “Well, I would make all semi-automatic guns illegal and raise the age for possession of guns to 21. And I would make a law that only people who use guns for hunting and special competitions should own them. The government should monitor all guns and only permit ownership in certain cases.”
Now, lest you think such sentiments are rare, I would suggest that the views of my cousin’s friend are reflective of a large portion of the students who gathered in Washington this past weekend. And, further, I would suggest that this sort of thinking reflects the miseducation—the anti-gun ideological indoctrination—that exists in our public schools and which is in many ways driving this debate.
Continuing, I asked:
ME: “But what about the U.S. Constitution? What about the 2nd Amendment that guarantees my ‘right to keep and bear arms’ and which has been upheld by the courts? How can you justify taking the right to keep and bear arms away from 18, 19, and 20 year olds, when, if they can join the armed forces they do exactly that? And they can vote as full citizens at age 18? Aren’t you infringing on their rights as citizens?”
STUDENT: “Well, if that is what the Constitution says, then it’s lived beyond its usefulness and should be junked or at least changed. Look, student lives are at stake. We can’t let this go on, so, if we need to abolish the Constitution, then we need to do it. It’s that simple—don’t you see?”
Notice the use of “if” here—as it is fairly obvious that this honor high school graduate doesn’t know apparently what the Constitution says in the 2nd Amendment, except that if it stands in the way of the latest political movement, it should disappear or be radically changed.
I responded to the student:
ME: “Let me ask you something: Each year thousands of cars driven by drivers between the ages of 16 and 21 run into and kill hundreds, probably thousands of people. Teenage drivers, students your age, are guilty of a disproportionate number of accidents and resulting deaths. Would you advocate raising the driving age to 21 and banning those ‘suped up’ sports cars that can really inflict mayhem in a collision?”
STUDENT: “No; it’s different. We need our cars to get around. You don’t need guns.”
ME: “That’s not the point: your argument is that more students are injured or killed by those aged between 18 and 21. My analogy is that cars driven by those in the same age group do the same thing. So, raise the age. Can’t you see that?
Additionally, let me repeat: possessing guns is a guaranteed right we have under the Constitution. We can own a car as property, but despite the fact that most people eventually use them, there is no guaranteed right for us to acquire them. You’re in school and live at home. You have car, but it is not absolutely necessary for you to have one. You have no ‘right’ to have one. But I do have the right under the Constitution, specifically, to keep and bear arms.”
At this point, there was a brooding silence, and so I continued:
ME: “Let me ask you another question, continuing with this comparison. Would you say that the responsibility for the deaths of those people killed by an automobile was with the automobile or with the car’s driver?”
STUDENT (rapidly responding): “The driver, sure.”
ME: “Okay, then, is it not the responsibility of the shooter who pulls the trigger in on-campus school violence and not the weapon he uses? I mean, suppose he uses a kitchen knife, or perhaps a bow and arrow. Should we ban them, too? Should we restrict them, say, as to age—no one under 21 can possess them? How many millions of folks have kitchen knives in their homes? How many BATF agents will it take to knock on every door and ask: ‘Let me see all your knives, and any bows and arrows you have.’ After all knives wound more people each year than guns. Does that mean my grand-nephew’s bow and arrow set he got last Christmas must be registered as a lethal weapon?”
At this point, there was more silence. But I had more questions.
ME: “Let me ask—what if in many schools you have three or four specially trained personnel who had access to guns, administrators who knew how to use guns safely. If this was the case and it was public knowledge, do you think those potential perpetrators would attempt the kinds of shooting we’ve seen?”
STUDENT: “Teachers don’t need and don’t want to be armed! That’s ridiculous.”
ME: “I’m not talking about all teachers or all administrators, just some specially trained persons—they mostly would be in administration—and that it would be publicly known. Don’t you think that might cause some aggrieved students to think twice?”
STUDENT: “Well, maybe…I suppose it might. I just don’t like the idea of guns in school.”
And I continued:
ME: “You told me that some of your friends had gone to Washington, and that you had high school friends who were organizing, as well?”
STUDENT: “Yeah, that’s right. I think they had support from some of their teachers and school administrators, and there were some churches involved, too.”
ME: “What about the political angle?”
STUDENT: “Well, I know that a lot of our movement is aimed against the powerful NRA who control Congress. And also at Donald Trump and the Republicans who are owned by the NRA.”
ME: “But the NRA did not pull Nicholas Cruz’s trigger; he did. The NRA in everything they do emphasizes gun safety and responsible ownership, including courses in how to properly and safely use a gun.”
STUDENT: “Well, what about those students who go off the deep end, who have mental problems?”
ME: “Agreed. But that doesn’t implicate the NRA or the right to gun ownership. That’s another whole issue, an issue that reflects what is occurring in our society, and, let me add, what kind of education and what kind of culture you and your friends are growing up in.
How many zombie movies have you seen in the past couple of years? You like AMC’s series ‘The Walking Dead’? How many thousands of persons in the series have their heads bitten off, shot or killed? How many characters get killed off in the ‘X-Men' series that is so radically popular? I mean, it is so easy and facile to understand how a young student—upset about something, maybe spurned in a relationship-gone-bad, perhaps feeling isolated and in despair, watching how Hollywood settles such things--might decide to pick up a gun, or perhaps a knife or bow and arrow, and decide to avenge the perceived grievance, and at the same time win a little fame and gain a little attention. Don’t you see that? Don’t you see how this society, including your own schooling, may produce this?”
At this point, the conversation seemed to trail off. My student friend, who was on spring break, had places to go, as had I. But as we parted he did say that he would think about what I had said. And I thanked him for listening and encouraged him to read more, and not just listen to other students and, yes, to his teachers and professors...and various politicians with an anti-gun agenda.
Will it do any good? Will he begin to think more deeply about the fundamental issues of this debate? Will he come to understand that many like him are being used as political battering rams by ideological forces which seek to undermine the 2nd Amendment as part of a longer range effort to gain more control over the lives and destinies of millions of American citizens?
To those questions I don’t have an answer. But I wish him well and wish him greater enlightenment, for the future of this nation rests upon the civic responsibility and understanding of young men (and women) like him.