INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. - Some two hundred years ago farmers and artisans who were the bulk of America's population laid their picks, sickles and tools, picked their old rifles and guns and went to war against the most powerful nation on earth to claim their liberty. To honor their valor and to acknowledge their way of life, the founding fathers so fit to amend the constitution (second amendment) in 1791 which reads in part, " ... the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." For these pioneers needed their guns to protect themselves in an untamed land and to hunt, not for fun, but to provide for their subsistence.
This pioneer way of life is extant: During my college days in Nebraska, a friend of mine and I went on a Sunday drive on a country road. As we turned around to head back we barely encroached on a farmhouse driveway, nevertheless, a woman appeared at the door, her cocked rifle pointing directly at us and ordered us to leave. A close friend in Cook, Minnesota, which is at the edge of the vast Boundary Waters is the embodiment of pioneers life: she home schools her 13 year old son and takes him with her to hunt with his own rifle for their annual supply of venison.
This affinity for guns is concomitant with the history and folklore of this country. No wonder then that many of us are fascinated by all these new and powerful guns that one sees in the market place and can acquire as easily as buying a pack of cigarettes; a state of affairs that puts too many guns in the hands of too many bad people. In his documentary film about the massacre of school children in Columbine High School, "Bowling for Columbine", Michael Moore points out that gun violence is the cause of death of only a few hundred people per year in the United Kingdom and in several other countries in Europe, while over 11,000 are killed and tens of thousands are injured by guns every year in this country; including scores of school children, to the horror of those who witnessed their massacre.
President Obama's agenda for gun control is specious; for he knows that the National Rifle Association (NRA) and their proteges in congress will see to it that it does not pass or that it would be watered down to an extent to render it a euphemistic exercise in gamesmanship. In any event, previous attempts to legislate in this regard proved to be ludicrous: the prohibition of alcohol succeeded only in creating a prosperous but illegal industry that made bad whiskey. Similarly, in spite of prohibition of drugs, peddlers are readily available at the doorsteps of elementary schools. Then there are the offenses that are not amenable to legislation, a myriad of offenses are committed under the influence of liquor, but we are not about to prohibit the drinking of liquor.
So here we are in a quandary. Should we put this issue in the hands of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to resolve? I'm afraid not. They are powerful and big - over three million members strong - but not big enough to speak for over 300 million Americans. Should we then ask Congress to decide? After all, Congress members are the individuals we elect to represent us? Certainly not, for most of them are the stooges of the NRA and various lobbies and are consumed by partisan politics to be fair arbiters.
In searching for an answer we need to keep in mind that this country, in terms of history, is in it's infancy; a mere 200 some years old while many other countries are thousands of years old, and have evolved with the passage of time. And so it will be with America; a country that is in the process of defining its identity. One does not need to look far to become cognizant of the issues at hand: abortion, birth control, gay marriage, capital punishment, distribution of wealth, immigration, gun control and so on.
So should we let history take its course with regard to gun control and wait for many more to be killed for us to be jolted into action? Or should we act now to stop these senseless killings? Coming to a decision on this issue would inherently violate the Second Amendment. But then one may argue that this amendment has outlived its purpose and should be abrogated or at least modified to become consistent with the world we live in.
- Sid Bekowich is an Incline Village resident.