I’ve declared my politics to be radically moderate, but I’m afraid I may have spoken too soon. To be moderate, a political stance has to have positions to the right and left of it, just as to be in the middle implies different directions, if not endpoints to either direction. If I’m in between Boston and Austin, say, it’s clear I’m in the United States. This past week, though, my moderate politics feel as though they’re stuck between Krypton and a peanut-butter-covered-banana. Let me explain—the political quandary if not the Superman/Supersnack analogy.
As so much today, it is President Trump who’s introduced the issue under discussion—gun control. Turning my political understanding on its head, though, he’s moved me to disagree with his conclusions based on reasoning I’ve never applied here before.
First, on gun control. I think guns do kill people, at least much more effectively than knives do. That is, given an assault rifle and, say, two-hundred rounds loaded into clips, I can go into any large gathering of human beings—school, church, mall, football game—and if I open fire I’m likely to kill at least 10 or 15 people and wound another dozen or more. This act would take little training or discipline—and no humanity, of course.
While I don’t own a gun, I do have a handful of knives, ranging from a hunting knife to a penknife to a Leatherman. Even if I were to invest in a half-dozen Cyclone Tri-Edged Spiraling Dagger Knives, reputed by some to be the deadliest knife available, I’d most likely be overpowered or assaulted before I could kill more than four or five people. A bellyful of bad intention and a knife can’t kill as many people as a troubled kid with an assault weapon can.
So, I’m not personally in favor of guns. I am, however, very much in favor of the Constitution, including, but not limited to, the Second Amendment. Can it be limited, the same way we limit the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech in certain circumstances? Sure. It’s very reasonable to talk about the balance of individual versus societal rights, or to put it in scarified terms: the right to carry a gun versus the right not to have your life flow out of the gunshot wounds inflicted by your fellow citizen. If we want to limit access by certain folks to certain types of weapons, that’s a conversation I think we should have.
This week, President Trump, while leading a bipartisan conversation on gun violence, was in favor of keeping assault rifles out of the hands of lunatics—a reasonable goal, I think, although quantifying lunacy does present a challenge. This sounds like what I’ve just described. Unfortunately, from my point of view, he then said words that chilled me when I heard them, and should chill you now:
“I like taking guns away early. Take the guns first, due process second.”
Let me repeat:
“Take the guns first, due process second.”
Leaving aside that we’ve now got a President of these United States of America unwittingly quoting Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts (“Sentence first-verdict afterward!”), I’m terrified that we didn’t ALL jump up and say,
“Wait a gosh-darned second Mr. President! This isn’t just about guns, for goodness’ sake. Due process is about as close to holy as we’ve got in this secular country. The government, or its representatives, has to prove its case, not confiscate then litigate. Our rights come from God (or Nature), not from the government. You rule by our consent.”
Or words to that effect.
Again, I may be nuts, but I’m not a gun nut. I DO, however, think the right to be free of illegal search and seizure and the right to due process apply not just to religious folks, people spouting unpopular political beliefs or criminals—they also apply to gun owners, whether nuts or not.