Dear New York Times; Captain America Civil War will be out next year. I am as excited to see it as you are, but I would preference you not jump the gun and incite a real civil war in the meantime. I know many people who own assault weapons and not a single one would commit an act of terrorism. However, I also know that not a single one of them would “give them up for the good of their fellow citizens” as you suggested in your front page editorial. I believe they would “use them for the good of their fellow citizens”, but give them up, I think not. I have no doubt that you are all very smart people living in the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple. But somewhere in Montana is a rancher who in a state the size of Iraq but with only 1,000,000 people is wondering why he has to give up his legally purchased firearms because someone from the city told him so. He wonders if you are joking, but worse yet, he fears you believe the mantra “Cold Dead Hands” to be a joke.
A Moral Outrage?
I am actually not ashamed of America. You indicate that it is a “moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.” And while I will address the “speed and efficiency” point soon, let me first address the outrage part. Slavery was a moral outrage and a national disgrace. The ensuing lack of civil rights for African-Americans was a moral outrage and a national disgrace. And when America woke up to realize that, they changed the constitution to reflect it. For that reason, I am not ashamed of America.
We will always self-correct as time goes on and sooner or later, America gets what America wants. However, the founders set an intentionally high bar on altering the rights they fought to secure. A simple majority won’t get it done, but a morally outraged nation can make it happen quite quickly. Yes, the founders perhaps didn’t foresee the advancement of modern weapons of war, but they didn’t foresee women getting the right to vote either. It was a moral outrage and national disgrace that women couldn’t vote at one point in our nation’s history, but when America woke up to realize that, they changed the constitution to reflect it. For that reason, I am not ashamed of America.
However, I would be ashamed of an America that allowed women to vote, but said they had to complete 20 pull-ups to do so. I would be ashamed of an America that prohibited a poll tax, but charged $500 for parking outside a polling station. I would be ashamed of an America who says we have the right to free speech, but makes words that could be offensive or hurt someone’s feelings criminal as apparently 40% of millennials would preference. I would be ashamed of an America that said 18-year-olds had the right to vote, but they had to prove they weren’t an absolute idiot first. Now wait, that last one is actually not a bad idea. But the point is, if it was indeed a moral outrage as you called it, then America would respond as we always have in kind. It is called the 2nd Amendment because it is literally the 2nd one on the list, not an afterthought. To alter it with anything less than the constitution itself would in fact be, a moral outrage and national disgrace.
Confession time. I actually tried to kill someone with an assault weapon once. It wasn’t my fault really as the other guy tried to kill me and a few of my friends first with his own assault weapon. But since it occurred when I was a Marine in Iraq, it all seemed like fair game. Then, my friends and I all tried to kill this guy together because that’s what friends do I guess. To my knowledge, I didn’t hit him, but I didn’t go back to check either. Do you know how many people have been killed in America by assault weapons? I’m sure you have fact checkers out there, but wouldn’t that be an interesting number to publish so that we can determine the scope of this moral outrage. Actually, you already did that last September in another editorial you titled, The Assault Weapon Myth. I attached a link so you can refresh your memory.
I actually respect people who just come right out and say they want to repeal the second amendment. I might think them foolish, but at least they are honest. In your September 2014 editorial you offered the following quote from the Department of Justice in reference to the 1994 assault weapon ban: “Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”
You know that feeling you get when states pass Voter ID laws and you believe it to be an infringement on a person’s right to vote? Despite the fact that anyone can easily get an ID, you believe the hurdle put in place to be much more nefarious that it seems. That is kind what supporters of the 2nd Amendment are feeling right now. I support voter ID laws in the same manner I am ok with background checks and some basic mental health component for a gun purchase. Both can be very dangerous and lead to an infringement of a basic constitutional right, but if done well and aggressively kept in check, harmless.
I realize that this was the first time you put an editorial on the front page in 100 years which I guess was supposed to make this carry more weight. Granted, that man in Montana minding his own business is still trying to figure out who this “editorial board” might be that tells him he should feel moral outrage. I’m sure he is staring at his assault rifle right now pacing back and forth doing his best to comply. Perhaps it would help if you recommend he draw a little Hitler mustache on it. I’m sure the brave man below is thankful he didn’t have any moral outrage to feel guilty about as the tank rolled over him.
I am a proud gun owner, but I do not own an assault rifle despite the fact that it is the weapon which I am most familiar and trained to use. But that will change. I can read the tea leaves thanks to your editorial and I will have one or two soon. And should you have your way and outlaw them, then it will be the craziest thing. A bear just ran right in my house grabbed my assault weapons and took them off into the woods. Darndest thing you ever saw. Thanks for your contradictory editorials. I’m off to do some work as a writer so I can pay for my upcoming morally outrageous purchase.
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