Thank you, Congressman Jared Golden, for recognizing what a vast majority of Mainers and Americans have known all along: Assault weapons have no place in civilian life and should be banned. In the hands of civilians, they are antithetical to the purpose of the Second Amendment – “to raise a well-regulated militia to secure a free State” – and they are a threat to life and limb.
In a recent email to constituents, you acknowledged that these weapons of slaughter are meant only for the explicit purpose of shredding human life. Sadly, in America, too many mass shootings have claimed and maimed innocents because of easy access to assault weapons.
What was disquieting about your email, however, is that your lived experience in combat seems to continue to inform your viewpoint on gun rights in civilian life. I am sorry for the anguish you and your family endure as a result of your military service. That said, I am more dreadfully sorry for the pain that will dwell with the families of the shooting victims in Lewiston as they, and too many others, wonder why Congress fails to act. We’ve all had enough.
As a veteran, you shared in your email that the U.S. Marines have a “Ladder of Accountability.” “The top four rungs are for accountable behaviors such that things happen because of you – they lead to the ‘bell of success.’ They are: acknowledge reality, ‘embrace it,’ find solutions, and make it happen.”
As one of a very few elected U.S. representatives with military combat experience, your declaration of conscience appears insightful and unequivocal. As I read it, you want “to ban their sale and restrict the possession of them.” That means it would be illegal to buy or own an assault weapon unless specifically permitted to do so.
However, you go on to say: “I remain a strong believer in not only the right to self-defense but also, unfortunately, the necessity of it. This is what I believe to be at the heart of the Second Amendment. But anyone familiar with my legislative record would understand that I believe our Constitution and our courts seek to find a balance between the individual right and the public’s right for security and the obligation of the government to provide it.”
I believe your understanding of the Second Amendment is flawed, an interpretation largely fueled by the agenda of the National Rifle Association, the manufacturers of weaponry and a perverted view by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court.
In short form, the Second Amendment says clearly that a regulated militia may be constituted to secure a free state. A free state is not a state of being but rather a democratic government (presumably juxtaposed to a nondemocratic government or tyrannical authority). And at the time this amendment was written, people joining a well-regulated militia had to provide their own (muzzle-loading) firearms, and that right was not to be questioned for that purpose. That is not our world today. In fact, we have well-regulated militia called the National Guard.
America’s obsession with weapons today has little to do with sport and mostly to do with unfounded fears or feelings of personal inadequacy. Why else would the number of weapons in America far outstrip the number of residents? These same proponents of weaponry often have been taught to hold the “others” in low regard – people from away, people of color, people with different accents and people of different faiths. Those are fears that are taught. It is grooming by any other name, not a matter of mental health.
The likes of Donald Trump and Fox “Views,” abetted by moneyed ultraconservatives, are purposefully working, without respite, to divide our nation; to create imagined threats and fears that simply shouldn’t exist. These dividers are skilled insurrectionists that sow and feed off of conflict.
So, yes, Rep. Golden, I’ll concede there is a threat to our nation, our neighbors and democracy, but it cannot be resolved with a gun on your hip or an armory in your home. It can only be confronted through education, debate in the public square and votes at the ballot box by an informed citizenry through the election of people, like you, who are open to change and reason.
Thank you again for your change of heart and your service to our country. Please reach up and hang onto that top rung of accountability and “make it happen.” And please, convince your congressional colleagues to join you in banning assault weapons.