Remember when Hawkeye Pierce was cool? A hero who disdained guns, looking on them as a confession of failure of imagination and of intellect. An attitude shared by the Doctor, in Doctor Who, by the way, whose occasional use of them generally indicates desperate measures indeed being called for.
And they are not alone in this attitude.
But in America, I'm afraid, we love our guns.
So much so that rather than regulate them, and instill a culture of same gun use, we are training our children to hide from mad gunmen like we were trained to cower against nuclear blasts:
For students across the country, lockdowns have become a fixture of the school day, the duck-and-cover drills for a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Kindergartners learn to hide quietly behind bookshelves. Teachers warn high school students that the glow of their cellphones could make them targets. And parents get regular text messages from school officials alerting them to lockdowns.Isn't that just bloody marvelous?
School administrators across the country have worked with police departments in recent years to create detailed plans to secure their schools, an effort that was redoubled after the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets. School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.
“They kept saying, ‘Lock your doors and keep everyone away from the windows,’ ” said Rebecca Grossman, a 10th grader at Watertown High School, outside Boston, where students have been forced to “shelter in place” three times this school year, a less serious version of a full lockdown.
Now let me point a few things out, about our current toxic love affair with the gun.
First, I am not talking about gun owners who use them for hunting, or even recreational competition. I'm talking about people who are political activists, trying to force guns into every facet of American life, like the Open Carry Movement:
Some two dozen men and women from the gun rights group Open Carry Texas, armed with rifles and shotguns, sat outside a Dallas-area restaurant earlier this month while four women—members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a small gun control advocacy organization—ate lunch inside at the Blue Mesa Grill. The group posed for photos in the strip mall parking lot, brandishing their weapons and the American flag. After 15 minutes, they packed up their protest and headed to Hooters.I'm also talking about the NRA which responded to the Sandy Hook shooting by calling for "a good guy with a gun" as the answer to "a bad guy with a gun. (That the argument had previously been made by Uncle Duke might have slowed down a less fanatical organization, but not the NRA.)
“It was very unsettling. It was very disturbing,” one of the moms explained two days later in a televised interview. The groups’ founder, Shannon Watts, said patrons were “terrified by what appeared to be an armed ambush.” The hashtag #gunbullies was born.
The incident is the latest headline-grabbing showdown involving open carry activists, who want the unconcealed carrying of firearms to be as normal as holding a cell phone. In groups armed with rifles and Gadsden flags, they’ve demonstrated at the site of President Kennedy’s assassination. They walk alone through state capitol buildings, and Home Depots, baiting police officers and frightening workers and ordinary citizens.
Second, the same judicial decision that found an individual right to keep and bear arms also found that the right was not absolute:
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.26(District of Columbia v. Heller, per Scalia, J.)
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.” See 4 Blackstone 148–149 (1769); 3 B. Wilson, Works of the Honourable James Wilson 79 (1804); J. Dunlap, The New-York Justice 8 (1815); C. Humphreys, A Compendium of the Common Law in Force in Kentucky 482 (1822); 1 W. Russell, A Treatise on Crimes and Indictable Misdemeanors 271–272 (1831); H. Stephen, Summary of the Criminal Law 48 (1840); E. Lewis, An Abridgment of the Criminal Law of the United States 64 (1847); F. Wharton, A Treatise on the Criminal Law of the United States 726 (1852). See also State v. Langford, 10 N. C. 381, 383–384 (1824); O’Neill v. State, 16Ala. 65, 67 (1849); English v. State, 35Tex. 473, 476 (1871); State v. Lanier, 71 N. C. 288, 289 (1874).
It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service—M-16 rifles and the like—may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment ’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.
And yet, any effort to apply these permissible regulations of guns, whether on the state or federal level, leads to swift retribution.
This even though, according to research published this year in the Law Enforcement Bulletin, conducted by two scholars employed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, in examining what the authors call "Active Shooter Events" from 1999-2013:
The dotted trendline shows a definite increase over the past 12 years. In fact, the number of events drastically increased following 2008. The rate at which these events occurred went from approximately 1 every other month between 2000 and 2008 (5 per year) to more than 1 per month between 2009 and 2012 (almost 16 per year). The authors’ tracking also indicates that this increased rate has continued into 2013—more specifically, there were 15 events. While it is possible that this increase is an artifact of the search strategy (perhaps, archiving of the news reports has improved in recent years), the authors believe that the observed rise represents a real increase in the number of events in recent years. Figure 2 shows the number of people shot and the number of people killed for each year. Here again the trend line shows a definite increase.(To be fair, the authors call for, among other recommendations the sort of civilian training the necessity of which I am deploring.)
In short, the norming of guns and gun violence into every facet of society continues. It's like the mocking lyric from Aspects of Love: "Everybody loves a hero! Let's hear it for the man with the gun!"
Who am I to protest, after all?