TAHOE CITY, Calif. - We owe it to our children and future generations to look at our positions on school safety and the ramifications of gun ownership and gun control in light of what we know about future possibilities. No matter who we are, a critical examination of our opinions on these issues is as important as addressing specifics, such as school building design and access, and gun control legislation in the context of the 2nd Amendment.
What happened in Connecticut should concern us with reality, not appearances, and not the nearsightedness we casually allege the authors of the 2nd amendment had. What Ben Franklin may or may not have foreseen in terms of what the world would be like in 200 years, or what kinds of weapons would exist, should motivate us to be realistic now about what the future might hold. Ben knew that weapons technology evolves, and why. It had evolved before and during his lifetime. James Madison knew that population growth, technology and human weakness would put the future of America at risk.
The same holds true today. Purely political reactions to recent events only keep us in the dark. We need to give more thought to the next 200 years to ensure that our feelings and intentions will not lead to actions that hinder the ability of people living in 2213 to protect their freedom and defend themselves from every possible threat.
Armed guards have been used by school districts for years with the consent of parents and communities. They are a fact of life. Their appearance should not be as much of a concern as having no protection at all. But, even with armed protection, there is no guarantee that every threat can be stopped. That would require pure luck. As long as there are mentally unstable people, no school or public building security system will always be fail safe. But every school and public building owner has a right, and a duty, to at least try. It is more than a little unreasonable in a free country to object to people protecting each other.
The idea that we do not need automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons for hunting, or any other use, makes perfect sense if all we look at it today.
Our history is red with "sanctioned" bloodshed. Hired guns in the early years of union organizing were merciless. The Matewan, West Virginia coal mining murders are one small example. If the government, and corporations, don't use force against citizens again, then there is no need for private citizens to have assault weapons. But, if things like that, or worse, happen again (and they can), survival is a natural right.
Whether or not our right to bear arms only applies to a well regulated militia or also to individuals, the sad fact is, assault weapons may come in handy for both in the future. When assault weapons are outlawed, only the government will have assault weapons.
Assault weapons against an oppressive government are useless in the hands of private citizens only because the government always has more firepower. Assault weapons against the world's largest military and air force would not deter a rogue government. But they would give the people using them to defend themselves more time.
Everybody I know likes the idea of having more time.
Finally, it would be irresponsible to dismiss the worst case scenario, the chance that our government is neutralized by an unfriendly foreign power or natural disaster, and social chaos, or worse, ensues. Threats to water supplies, public utilities and national defense from biological and chemical weapons, cyber espionage, global warming, volcanoes, super storms and earthquakes already exist. Like it or not, or believe it or not, this is the world we live in.
Anything can happen during the next 200 years. It would be tragic to leave our descendants defenseless just because we thought we knew everything.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.