Gun Ownership: The Imbalance Of Power No One Is Talking About
59 dead in Las Vegas. 500 more injured. For no reason. We’re still reeling from this domestic terror attack, and issues are popping up in the front yard of our minds like thirsty dandelions. Gun control is under focus again. And again we’re told there’s nothing to be done. We must retain our sacred right to keep and bear arms as our forefathers said we should.
As time wore on, something about the right of ownership changed at a fundamental level as the weaponry citizens had access to increased in complexity and destructiveness. And during this time, we were told that there was nothing to worry about because gun owners needed them just for hunting or protection, and that’s valid. But at the same time, the same people who told this to us lumped in these newer, more complex, more efficient killing machines along with the ones that helped protect rural landowners from bears and shop owners from gangbangers. We were told to trust in the responsibility of gun owners, gun sellers, gun enthusiasts, and gun lobbyists.
However, we’ve seen that “staying the course and hoping people are responsible” results in continued shootings from people who aren’t responsible. We’ve also seen that “loosening regulations and restrictions so that honest gun enthusiasts can enjoy their right without hassle” leads to increased numbers of shootings from people who aren’t honest.
I don’t like guns at all, and if I were in charge I’d ban the damn things entirely. But I get that some people love them and geek out about them the same way I do about board games and professional wrestling, so I understand why people would want to keep them after they already have one (or a collection). I also understand that it’s a deeply-held right to own one, and I’ll at least recognize the need to protect oneself.
I’ve thought about the context around the second amendment, and what it meant to the men who wrote us that right. To them, it was important that the people have the power to overturn corruption in their government, and that the threat of violence was enough of a balance against the political power politicians might abuse. Jefferson famously wrote that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
Jefferson and the other forefathers knew that when men have power, they tend to abuse that power if left unchecked. This unchecked power works both ways. As much as politicians have abused their power and ruined lives, citizens too have abused the power the second amendment has given them and ruined lives in a much more direct and overt way.
I’m behind the idea that citizens should be able to root out corruption and abuse in their government and change it for the better. But no amount of well-armed citizens can outmatch the U.S. Army, Navy, Navy SEALS, Marine Corps, numerous Police forces and SWAT teams, the National Guard, and all the modern vehicles, drones, bombs, and guns they have access to. Well-armed citizens may as well be armed with rocks if they were to stand up against the government as our forefathers wished.
The balance of power between citizens and the government that represents them still exists, but in a different form than it once did. And different struggles require different solutions. The end of the Cold War, for instance, was not met on a battlefield, but on a table. And like the Cold War, perhaps the answer is simple de-escalation from both sides. The government trims its enormous defense budget, citizens trim their most powerful guns. This isn’t a happy solution for each side, but a necessary one if we’re to save people from becoming the victims of gun violence.