Constable: Myth of guns as protection needs to die

Yesterday we honored the estimated 1.2 million military men and women killed in all of America's conflicts since our founders fought for independence in 1775-83. Today we struggle to get a handle on the estimated 1.7 million Americans killed by guns since 1968.

One week ago today, an 18-year-old, too young to rent a car in most states, bought 375 rounds of ammunition and a couple of semi-automatic rifles favored by mass murderers, walked into a fourth-grade classroom in Texas and slaughtered 19 innocent children and two teachers in another of America's stupefying and heartbreaking gun massacres. Those innocent kids and brave educators will be added to the annual gun fatality numbers that reached a record 45,222 in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We need a U.S. holiday to remember the 124 Americans who are killed by a gun every day, not in service of their country, but because of their country. A cynic might call it Thoughts and Prayers Day, as that has been our primary response to mass shootings. Perhaps we'd take more action if, instead of guns killing 10-year-olds, we talked about how guns killed 129-month-old fetuses. Guns surpassed car crashes in 2020 as the leading killer of our children and adolescents.

For those folks who think accidental deaths and suicides “don't count” as gun fatalities, that number falls to “only” 53 deaths every day of the year.

When Americans first became alarmed by the deaths caused by car accidents, our government stepped in with a gaggle of freedom-suppressing laws. The government required drivers to be tested for competency, forced us to buy liability insurance in case our cars hurt or killed somebody, legislated a bunch of expensive safety devices on vehicles to make them more difficult for bad guys or kids to use, made us jump through a bunch of safety precautions just to be able to start our cars, and mandated that we had to surrender the freedom over our own bodies to wear seat belts.

We don't do that with guns. Guns are protected by our Constitution, along with free speech and freedom of religion, and are hailed by some as a thing that built America. I think public education, free elections, railroads, libraries and the contributions of enslaved people and immigrants did more than six-shooters.

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” wrote our Founding Fathers, who gave gun-owners more rights than women or enslaved people.

Warren Burger, who was appointed as Chief Justice by Republican President Richard Nixon and served on the Supreme Court from 1969 until 1986, said that 2nd Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Clearly, our government, which ignores the “well-regulated” part of that amendment, also does “infringe on the right to bear Arms.” Otherwise, the gunmen who shoot little kids, grocery shoppers, concertgoers, church members, people of “different” races and religions, and other innocent Americans might opt for machine guns, hand grenades, missile launchers, land mines or any of the other arms whose would-be owners' rights have been infringed by “common-sense” laws. Clearly we can curb the kind of guns allowed and the size of the magazine, and set up rules for how guns are sold and who can buy and own them.

The biggest myth surrounding guns in America is that they make us safer. One area where “American exceptionalism” clearly puts us ahead of other nations in the world is gun violence. The more guns we stockpile in this country, the less safe we are. The idea that guns offer protection is a myth that has endured for centuries. One of the greatest gunfighters of the 19th Century American West was Wild Bill Hickok, an Illinois native, who rose to fame by shooting three men in self-defense. Hickok also accidentally killed his deputy in a shootout and died of a gunshot wound delivered by another gunslinger.

If guns truly made us safer, police and gangbangers would be the safest professions. The popular myth that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with “a good guy with a gun” was exposed once again earlier this month in Buffalo, when the retired police officer with a gun was killed by the shooter, who went on to kill nine others. The armed officer at the school in Uvalde, Texas, and the arrival of more law enforcement officers trained in how to use their guns, did not stop the gunman for more than an hour.

If our legislators refuse to regulate our guns, ammunition and access to these weapons of war, at least they can give us a second Memorial Day to mourn the innocents killed by them.

In what has become a uniquely American tradition, a child writes a message on a cross at a memorial site for the victims killed in last week's elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Associated Press
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.