Jim Bailey column: The rights and wrongs of gun ownership | Columns

Second Amendment

Tensions were high last month in Indianapolis as the National Rifle Association held its annual convention at the Indiana Convention Center. It’s another of those polarized arguments over the rights and wrongs in American society.

It all springs from a mere 27 words that make up the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “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.”

That, say supporters of unrestricted gun ownership, bestows the right on all citizens to arm themselves against tyranny and intruders with no exceptions – well, maybe a few well-documented crackpots running loose.

Others point to the alarming increase in mass slayings, drive-by shootings and almost daily instances of children unintentionally shooting other children with their parents’ firearms. Gun control, they insist, must be ratcheted up to deter the opportunity for firearms to be used illegally.

A comparison is made to driving laws, where drivers must be licensed after being properly trained in handling vehicles that have the potential for high-speed mayhem. But gun owners argue that unlimited firearm rights are guaranteed by the Constitution.

Historians could point out that everything has changed over two centuries. First, the term “militia” referred to groups of men who protected their communities during the Revolutionary War era, long before modern police forces were developed. And the evolution of firearms since then has advanced from muzzle-loading muskets to high-powered rifles capable of spraying more than 100 bullets a minute.

Like nearly everything else in today’s world, there is ultimate disagreement. Guns aren’t the problem, criminals are. Fine, except you don’t have maniacs committing mass murders with knives, spears, crossbows or the jawbone of a, uh, donkey, unless of course your name is Samson. And now we have a 6-year-old shooting a teacher. What’s next?

Certainly a householder should have the right to protect their domicile – unless it’s law enforcement at the wrong address. But how do you keep guns out of the hands of criminals or mentally troubled individuals? Outlaw them. Of course that sends the aforementioned into the black market. And it all continues.

I have trouble believing licensing requirements are unreasonable. If you’re going to possess a deadly weapon, you should know how to use it properly and be capable of using it wisely. How many mass murderers have fallen through the cracks in obtaining weapons they shouldn’t have had?

And of course the class of guns usually referred to as assault weapons. Fine for military and law enforcement use. But why do private citizens need them to utterly destroy wild game or targets?

Maybe, however, we should be worrying less about the instruments and more about who is wielding them. Mental health crises have been steadily increasing in today’s pell-mell society. And firepower has too often become the method of solving personal disputes. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure.

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