By Ken Trainor
The only citizens — non-law enforcement/non-military — who are mentally stable enough to carry a loaded gun in public are those who refuse to do so.
Yes, that's a Catch 22, but we have to draw the line somewhere, right?
Well, maybe not if you're an NRA partisan.
The Second Amendment states, "... the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." What could be clearer than that? Since most gun defenders are "originalists" (who claim to be able to divine the original intent of the Constitution's framers), they insist everyone should not only be able to own guns but also carry them. Forty-nine states, reportedly, now have some version of "conceal and carry" laws on the books. Illinois is the only holdout and probably not for long, given the zealous lobbying efforts of the gun proliferators and the natural spinelessness of politicians.
The originalists, however, ignore the entire first half of the amendment, which sets up the second half: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State ..."
The framers didn't have to include that clause. Or they could have limited it simply to "militia." But they didn't. They went to all the trouble of including "regulated," a word that gives gun worshipers night sweats. In fact, they went one step further to "well regulated." That raises the bar even higher.
A true originalist (which gun pushers and their Supreme Court allies clearly are not) would ask why the framers mentioned "well regulated militia" in the same breath as "the right to keep and bear arms." Gun propagators have never adequately explained that discrepancy.
Most do not belong to a militia (that we know of), much less a "well regulated" one. Therefore, we have to conclude that they are originalists only when it's politically convenient.
The framers, by the way, said "keep," not "own." A well regulated militia could issue arms that members would "keep" and "bear" only when necessary to the security of a free state.
I'm just sayin'...
But the critical question is, "What did the framers mean by 'infringed'?"
Does it infringe on the right to keep and bear arms if we forbid passengers from packing heat on commercial airlines? Presumably, in a post 9/11 world, with the 10th anniversary still fresh in our minds, most Americans would not favor conceal and carry on. Should citizens be allowed to carry loaded guns into town hall meetings with elected officials? Something tells me the politicians would draw the line there (if nowhere else).
So if we all (or most of us anyway) agree that the right to bear arms is not absolute — that it needs to be "well regulated" as the framers intended — then we should come to some consensus on where to draw the line.
Here's where I draw mine:
1) You need to be mentally stable enough to carry a gun.
2) No one is mentally stable enough.
Advocates of "conceal and carry" say they want to carry a gun because it makes them feel safer. Never mind that crime has been dropping overall for the better part of two decades. Never mind that guns, more or less concealed, make the rest of us feel extremely unsafe. After all, we don't know what stresses you're under. And I'm not willing to take your word for it, no matter how many NRA gun safety classes you say you've attended.
Have you ever experienced road rage? Have you ever "lost your temper"? Are you going through a divorce or have you been unable to get a job for two years after your company laid you off in the Great Recession? Is your home's mortgage "underwater"? Have you ever thrown a punch or shoved someone in anger?
Do violent revenge scenarios on TV or in the movies give you a thrill? Are you worn out from caring for an elderly parent? Is your health insurance company threatening to deny benefits to a sick loved one? Do you ever feel cranky after a few drinks? Do you ever indulge in more than a few drinks? Do you work too hard and too many hours and feel unappreciated? Do you have "issues" with certain people — Muslims, blacks, whites, Latinos, someone else? Have you lost treasured possessions in a natural disaster? Have you ever grieved deeply over the loss of a loved one?
The American Dream has ended for a lot of people. There is deep frustration out there. You think you're immune?
A lot of people who seem perfectly "normal" and "sane" are subject to personal meltdowns under trying circumstances. Emotions are powerful and frequently get the better of us.
No one is "stable" enough to keep a loaded, deadly firearm in easy reach when they're in public.
Police know this. That's why they put themselves through such strenuous training. Some years back, I went through a session and wrote about it. What the training hammers home is that discharging a deadly weapon is an awesome responsibility. In the heat of the moment, charged with adrenaline, in a situation that requires split-second decision making, it's horrifyingly easy to shoot an innocent person. If you don't recognize and readily acknowledge that danger, then you're not ready to carry a deadly weapon.
And I am anything but reassured when I read reactions from gun champions to columns like this. Those reactions range from explosive rage to derisive contempt to arrogant condescension (check out the comments on our editorial last Wednesday, Conceal and carry, at OakPark.com/Opinion as well as the comments this column will likely generate).
If you react so intensely to an opinion (protected by the constitutional amendment that comes before the right to bear arms), if you can't even be civil discussing this issue, how can we trust you to carry a loaded gun?
The only gun advocates who are even-keel enough to be in this debate are those who readily acknowledge that it makes many of their fellow citizens feel distinctly, even profoundly, unsafe, and that their own rights are not the only rights that matter. They know that, as Wikipedia puts it, "The United States has the highest rate of gun-related injuries among developed countries" and also the highest rate of gun ownership.
My measure of the progress of civilization is disarmament. Arming the public is clearly a step backward. Yet this community's attempt to take a step in the right direction has been blocked by outside gun lobbyists who want to impose their guns on us. How is that not tyranny? I thought resisting tyranny was one of the reasons gun advocates carry guns.
Don't kid yourselves; you're not freedom fighters.
I don't want to be within three blocks of anyone carrying a weapon in public, especially if I'm with loved ones. I'll bet the majority of Oak Parkers feel the same. Someone should put "conceal and carry" on a referendum ballot in Oak Park's next election. Let's find out where people stand. If it's 3-1 against, or higher as I would expect, how do you justify preventing us from drawing a line where, as a community, we see fit? So much for your deep allegiance to freedom from government interference.
A line needs to be drawn somewhere. I say guns for recreational use only, and ownership should be "well regulated" as the founding framers intended. If that results in some inconvenience, view it as a sacrifice you're willing to make for the common good.
Meanwhile, the only people who should be carrying guns in public are public safety professionals (in effect, our "well regulated militia").
The bottom line is, if you can't feel safe without concealing and carrying, then a loaded firearm isn't going to cure what ails you.