Saturday, April 26, 2014


Wednesday this week, Nathan Deal, the Governor of the state of Georgia, signed a bill into law.  It was known in Georgia's state legislature as House Bill 60, or the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014.  Opponents of the bill nicknamed it the "Guns Everywhere Bill".  An organization called GeorgiaCarry heavily lobbied Georgia's legislature, resulting in the bill passing 112-58 in the House and 37-18 in the Senate, sending the bill to Governor Deal's desk.

The bill defines where individuals may carry concealed weapons, provided they have a concealed weapons permit.  In the United States, people have the right to own firearms.  In some states, carrying a concealed weapon is allowed, even in public, again, provided the gun owner has a state-issued concealed carry permit.  That, in and of itself, may or may not register high on your societal radar.  What makes this law so shocking are the places that are included where one may carry a concealed weapon.

The law allows for weapons to be brought into such places as airports (although only in certain sections), bars, churches, government buildings, and school zones.  Not every single one of those in the state of Georgia, but all of those types of locations are now fair game for weapons.

Let us look at each of those types of locations briefly:
Airports -- You cannot bring firearms past TSA checkpoints, but all the way up to a TSA checkpoint is apparently legal.  The law allows guns at airport areas like drives, parking lots, walkways, and various other areas outside of the screening section.  Hey, no problems can arise by allowing firearms in those areas ... right?
Bars -- Haven't there been too many shooting incidents at bars and other alcohol-serving locations?  Now, it will be legally okay for firearms to be brought into some locations where people go to get impaired.
Churches -- This one probably befuddles me the most.  While there have already been shooting incidents at churches, what kind of theology says it is just fine to bring a firearm to worship and other church function?  What kind of God are you worshiping?  I understand that the law is a legal function, not a religious one, but the two previous questions are applicable to those who bring firearms to church.
Government buildings -- While some might say they would like to go into government buildings to get government working properly via a scare tactic involving a firerarm, merely expressing their frustration, how many shooting incidents  have there been in Georgia's legislative body's buildings and other government buildings?  Is it that high of a number?  Even more specifically the law allows for weapons in government buildings that have no security personnel operating on alert (i.e. screening or preventing access).  Do those government employees, "non-essential government personnel", feel safer now?
School zones -- All of the hub-bub about having guns in schools since the Sandy Hook shooting a year-and-a-half ago was used as a catalyst by the NRA has been completely out of proportion.  This seems to be an NRA-reasoned motivation.  However, my question is what does the state of Georgia consider as a school zone?  Doesn't a school zone include high schools?  Since you have to be at least eighteen years of age to own a firearm in the state of Georgia, would a high school senior who is eighteen still remain in compliance with the law if he/she brought a firearm to school?  It, then, would be illegal to kill students and faculty, but legal to bring the weapon used into the school in the first place.

I am reminded of the following quotations.  One from the biblical texts, namely the gospel of Matthew, and the other two other ways of expressing the same idea.  (The last one is attributed to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
"Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."
"He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword."
"Violence begets violence."

What does all of this "more guns" rhetoric and action say about us?  Is it that we are being proactive to the ills of society, specifically gun violence?  Is it that people are standing up for freedom?  Or is it something else?

Since it seems as though the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution is kicked around like a soccer ball, but it is, after all, germane to this issue, let us look at the amendment:
"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."

Let me say right up front that I have no problem with responsible individuals who are not mentally challenged to own a gun or a rifle.  I am a pacifist and I would prefer no one had guns, but I respect a person's right to own a firearm and to protect him/herself.  I would also add hunting for food, not for mere sport.

Does protecting yourself require or mandate owning a firearm?  Absolutely not.  That is just one way to do so.  There are ways to go excessive, such as using semi-automatic/automatic firearms or chemicals (i.e. saran gas, acid), or continuing to harm someone once you have stopped them. 

Getting back to the second amendment, does it, in and of itself, deal solely with the right to own firearms?  Well, yes and no.  It clearly includes the phrase "the right of the people to keep and bear arms".  That means individuals, doesn't it.  Yes.  Where the "no" comes in is why.  What was the reasoning for the inclusion of this amendment by the founders of the country and the wording used?  That leads to a division regarding the why.  

To consider the reason behind the amendment, it is necessary to consider the reasons behind our forebearers coming to this country.  In short, very short, they were oppressed in their native lands: religious intolerance (As the King goes, so goes the kingdom), inequitable and unreasoned taxation, imprisonment, and violence, among other things.  King George III was no ball of laughs, on European and North American soil.  I would venture to say that our forebearers knew from experience that uprising against their government when it is being unfair or oppressive to its people was not only good, but necessary for a truly free State.  If they were unable to defend themselves as a people in the land where they had been brought up, then they were certainly going to establish being able to do so in the country they were forming from scratch.

That leads us into the intent behind the amendment.  I would suggest that our forebearers did not feel the mere possession of firearms was a singular done-deal in the pursuit of forming "a more perfect union".  Look at England, for one example, today.  Their gun violence is incredibly lower than ours and its citizens are not marching in the streets, taking to the Internet, or trying to overrun Parliament for the right to bear arms ... or to have more firearms among the population.  A mere coincidence?  I do not believe so.

While "the right of people to bear arms" is highlighted over and over again when citing the the second amendment in gun debates, the phrase "A well regulated Militia" tends to get grossly overlooked.  I see the amendment as an affirmation of the right to bear arms in response, if it goes that far, to an oppressive government.  We have a passive passing of the torch from the loser to the winner with every political election, but our forebearers felt this new country's citizens had the right to rise up against its government, which they felt they did not before.  

"A well regulated Militia" is not the same as every individual, or as many individuals as possible, owning firearms.  Thus, it is also not the expanding of how many people have firearms, or where firearms can be allowed.  

And that leads us -- there's a lot of leading us today, isn't there? -- to what the amendment covers.  It is the division that, quite honestly, doesn't get a lot of attention.  Does the second amendment cover solely individual rights (the mere possession of a firearm) or does it cover society at large (used for the greater good)?  While I believe in the individual's right to protect him/herself or to hunt for sustenance, I do not believe the second amendment is the fully appropriate ground on which to base gun debates.  I have heard no one publicly claim, clearly and succinctly, that the second amendment relates solely to the greater good.  What I hear is it's all about individual rights.  If, for example, every individual in a city owned a firearm, then that is not a well regulated militia.  It is simply a bunch of individuals who own weapons.  Nothing more, nothing less.

In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the amendment was about individuals' rights, although it said specifically that it was to protect "a personal right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense within the home."  In 2010, it affirmed that state and local governments do not have the right to supersede or impinge on its earlier ruling.  

I am yet to be convinced how the right to own a firearm to protect yourself is the same thing as the right to overthrow an oppressive government.


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