The most heinous example of acting out has once again occurred, this time by a gun-wielding young killer, Cho Seung-Hui. He was a very troubled and violent young person, as we’ve also come to learn, who was acting out in the most criminal of ways. This time, though, the aberration cost 33 people their lives, 32 of whom were innocent victims, doubling the loss of life of one previous episode.
To further the hurt, he chose to send his message just four days before the eighth anniversary of another disaster, the Columbine High School bloodbath. That ‘acting out’ episode resulted in the massacre of thirteen kids at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999 by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Eric and Dylan decided they, too, needed to make a statement to the world. Like Cho, they were willing to give their lives to make it.
The obvious blame will fall to gun control (or lack of gun control) in this country, and I am certainly not going to minimize that fault here. The United States is looked on globally as getting it so terribly wrong when it comes to that issue, and we deserve every criticism that falls upon us for that.
Long have we heard, “Guns don't kill people, people kill people.” My answer to that is, "Yes - people with guns." One of the biggest supporters of guns and the National Rifle Association (NRA) was one Dimebag Darrell, the guitarist for Damageplan and Pantera. Ironically, he was killed during a 2004 shooting spree at a Columbus, Ohio nightclub. With him went five other people, including the gunman. He was 38-years-old.
I have a slogan for you, NRA: "Live by the gun, die by the gun." Unfortunately, those that don’t live by the gun are all too frequently taken, too. It’s all too easy for crazies to get their hands on guns in this country in spite of the NRA’s ridiculous argument in support of firearms. How far could Cho have gotten if he’d had to strangle those 32 people? Or stabbed them? Or put poisonous gas in the air system?
My grievance here goes beyond that, though. One picture of an angry 23-year-old with guns in both hands should be message enough to the NRA, to the legislators, as well as to families and friends alike who see the signs of rage and distress in these individuals and do nothing.
In almost every instance, when a situation such as this occurs, we get a history of the person. In almost every case, the person was or still is being treated for emotional issues. Psychiatrists have perhaps examined these people and agreed that there is a violence problem, but done nothing beyond writing them up. They're free to walk out of a doctors office, purchase a gun, or guns, and go on murderous rampages.
Who is at fault exactly? We all are: the families who don’t acknowledge there is a problem, the friends who don’t want to snitch and may well pay with their own lives for their honor among friends, the school system that doesn’t follow up on kids with known issues, and the gun culture that misuses excerpts of the second amendment to justify arming themselves.
The Second Amendment is among the most misunderstood provisions of the U.S. Constitution: “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own State, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil power.”
The legal precedents are far from clear in that amendment. They are also pathetically sparse, at best. There was an article in the Yale Law Journal a few years ago entitled "The Embarrassing Second Amendment," suggesting a reluctance on the part of the courts and the legal community to deal with our issues today. In almost every other aspect of law, the Bill of Rights has been broadly construed to restrain the states as well as the federal government.
Few today would argue that states can abrogate the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, yet many are prepared to do nothing with the Second Amendment on the grounds that the framers were sage and knowledgeable men. Perhaps they were — I’ve no doubt this is true – but let’s not forget these same men penned that slavery was fine, even owning some themselves.
Today we are appalled at the very thought of someone being held in bondage. Slavery was bad. The constitution, as written, permitted it, and a duly ratified amendment was required to put the matter right. These men, who were responsible for the Bill of Rights, were living in a different time. Their rulings and implemented amendments from back then have brought us to today.
No, they could not have foreseen the urban violence on the scale we have today, but if they’d had a crystal ball to gaze into, do you think they would have written those murky words back then? Or at least as obscurely? Since you don't hunt elk with a hand gun or quail with an AK27, I think they would have done a much better job of passing this into one of the laws of the land.
Dragging out that old chestnut, “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” you don’t arm yourself against an armed person. You implement stronger laws that make it much harder for criminals to arm themselves, thereby making the world a safer place for all.
That’s not control. That’s sheer wisdom.