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By Ken Trainor
In my Sept. 26 column, I responded to Dave Schweig's proposal for a citizen advisory commission on the issue of guns in Oak Park. He's in favor of them, so calling for a public discussion is a remarkable initiative on his part. After all, the five Second Amendment-lovers on the Supreme Court already overturned Oak Park's longstanding (and very popular) handgun ban — thanks to outside intrusion by the NRA.
So I give him a lot of credit for not just smugly thumbing his nose at the rest of us. He's putting himself out there.
In that previous column, where I took gun proponents to task for wanting rights without corresponding responsibilities, I said, "I have, on several occasions, freely acknowledged that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to own guns. I need Dave to acknowledge that with that right come certain responsibilities — including the recognition that something needs to be done to keep madmen from having such easy access to firearms. As soon as I hear that, I'll support the inquiry commission on responsible gun ownership."
On Nov. 21, we carried Dave's response in Viewpoints: "I heartily endorse your position that those of us who support the Second Amendment have a clear responsibility for meeting all legal and moral requirements for owning/using firearms, and we certainly recognize 'that something needs to be done to keep madmen from having such easy access to firearms.'"
For all I know, this could be the first public statement of this kind from any supporter of gun ownership/Second Amendment rights. At any rate, it's the first I've seen.
Both of our statements are pretty straightforward, so I'm assuming good faith. Therefore, I endorse Dave Schweig's call for a public inquiry commission on guns that would eventually issue recommendations to the village's department of public health.
The devil, of course, is in the details. I'm no organizer, and my public endorsements in the past, sadly, have had less than a galvanizing effect on the public at large. It's possible that the only two members of this commission will be Dave and myself, so until an actual group is formed, I'll get the discussion rolling.
As I suggested in my comment above, I believe such a commission should be focused on "responsible gun ownership." To me, that includes legislating a system of truly effective gun control. In fact, a strong case can be made that the only way to be a responsible gun owner is to promote gun control.
I would also argue that effective gun control measures are in the best long-term interests of the NRA and individual gun owners like Dave Schweig. In fact, the NRA should be in the front lines, lobbying for better gun control instead of supporting those so adamantly opposed to it.
Easy access to guns leads to mass murder. The incidents are piling up with maddening frequency — almost every month now. The number of casualties will only increase. The NRA's ability to intimidate a cowardly Congress does not mean they're winning the argument. It only means they enjoy a short-term advantage. The same is true of the current Supreme Court majority. Inevitably, that will shift, very likely not in the NRA's favor.
Meanwhile, the rising body count will be accompanied by a rising tide of public animosity toward both the NRA and their congressional lapdogs.
Some of the deeper thinkers in the pro-gun movement characterize the right to own firearms as "a priori," i.e. a divinely granted, inalienable right, essential to our very humanity. Which is, of course, horse manure.
The right to free speech is inalienable because without free speech, our humanity would be diminished. Freedom of worship is inalienable because freedom of conscience is essential to human dignity. Guns are tools. They are not essential to who we are as human beings. And the right to keep and bear arms is anything but inalienable. Public outrage against the mass mayhem caused by careless, easy access to guns will inevitably sweep away the Second Amendment.
Therefore, if gun supporters want to preserve it, they need to join forces with those who favor effective gun control. Instead, they oppose any and all measures to restrict or delay access to gun ownership because their greatest fear is that the government will eventually try to take away their firearms, and they see this as the first step toward that end. Ironically, all their efforts to block gun control only bring that day closer. In time, the vast majority of Americans, fearful for their own safety and that of their loved ones, will vote against any candidate who supports gun ownership.
This is not an argument the NRA can win long term. There is no moral legitimacy to their position. Talk about a respect-for-life issue. I hope to God that at least the so-called "pro-life" folks will take a public stand in favor of gun control. Otherwise their entire movement loses its moral credibility.
All the gun promoters have to back them up is a vaguely worded, historically obsolete constitutional amendment and a lack of political will to overturn it. Time is not on their side. It may not happen in our lifetime, but it will happen — unless the NRA changes course.
Gun control, in the long run, is the only way to protect the Second Amendment.
In endorsing this commission, therefore, I suggest we start with the proposition that the interests of gun owners and non-gun owners alike is best served by a system of truly effective gun control.
Now, how do we get there?
I don't know if we can find common ground, Dave, but you reached out to start a dialogue and I respect you for that.
As always, I look forward to your response.