Our cover story from last week, featuring the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and its long-standing efforts to defend constitutional rights on a wide range of issues, failed to touch on one hot-button issue: gun control. Because both state and federal constitutions codify citizens' right to bear arms, the issue of determining what controls, if any, are appropriate to protect the public from homicidal maniacs rests in the hands largely of legislators, not judges. That's why we asked two of our interns, Matt Louden and David Cerola, to ask a couple local activists who have strong opinions on this debate to outline their positions. Excerpts of Louden's conversation with Horning follows, broken down into three general category areas. For a different perspective on the gun reform debate, check out this interview featuring Andrea Spielberg, Co-chair of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
We've never had a period where our government behaved itself. Not ever. The fact that we've had injustices through our entire history, the fact the Indians never had the benefit of our laws; that we've always violated all of our treaties, the things we did to black people with experimenting with syphilis and stuff. We injected school kids with plutonium. We've never had a period where our government behaved itself. Not ever. And so when you think about what this is really all about, it's us versus them. And I don't know why we don't get that yet.
Why are we so dense as to think that our government is a benevolent god? It is not, it never has been. It is a dangerous force; one that needs counterforce... Some people have this feeling that we're heading back to our ancient default state of oppression, slavery, genocide, and war. And we're doing it fast...
Now today, we have this Tinker Toy view; we don't debate things very deeply at all. We're reactionary, we're emotional, we think very rarely in terms of actual human nature terms or in the evidence of our history, we just don't think very much and so we have a tendency to divide into shirts and skins teams like this is a sports event and we make it sound like, "Well, they're for this so I'm against that." And it's a false dichotomy, false adversarial role where we're missing the real enemy.
I see no difference in the authoritarians of the Republican Party and the authoritarians in the Democratic Party. All of them believe that government trumps you, that this abstraction of of state, this idol we think of in some kind of collective humanized form of government is something benevolent. I do not see our inherently violent, exotically expensive, evasive government - that's got armies in well over half the nations of the world right now and it's pointing its guns at the other half - ...as this benevolent force.
When we have a president who wants a monopoly on violence, not only does he want to make sure that nobody else in the world can trump our government in terms of its firepower, but he wants to make sure that nobody on this soil here can challenge him at all, in any kind of way, and that only politicians have this trumping violent force that's just based on guns and SWAT teams and armored personnel carriers that now cops have ... I wonder what they see? When they see that our police agencies are getting military hardware, and when they're getting big military hardware like armored personnel carriers and tanks and riot control gear that makes anything they had in Star Wars look tame. The uniforms even are getting scarier and scarier looking.
I see its violence and I see this violence as something that needs to be contained. It's just the agents of politics have been very good at dividing us against ourselves. They divide us by race, by gender, by every kind of means of artificial categories and they make us draw teams and fight each other when really what we should be looking at is what is this thing, if you could point to any one danger in human history, what's killed more people than anything else? What's enslaved people? What's the only thing capable of institutionalizing slavery, institutionalizing murder? Only government does that, only government can do that. And why we don't see that as something that needs to be on a leash is completely beyond me.
Look at Chicago and D.C., places where they've got incredibly stringent gun control, did that fix the problem? Of course not, it's worse ... So if most people who have studied this can at least agree that it doesn't work as advertised, you know that there's no magic bullet here, it's not like you can outlaw guns and suddenly criminals realize that gosh we've been outlawed we've got to stop being criminals it doesn't work like that. Never has.
I see we have two big problems: one is mental health, and the other is sort of a social health where we're denying that guns exist somehow, and that we're acting as though they can't fall into the wrong hands or we don't need to know about them, so if you're looking for what my solution to gun violence, I suppose if you wanted to put it in that term, it would be first of all look at the mental issues and second of all look at the ignorance issue...
There's no excuse for the lack of training, the lack of understanding about weapons that are common and I don't know how many times I've heard about sad stories where people who are no longer trained in the safety of guns and stuff, leave things around, a kid gets a hold of one of these things, kid's never even seen a gun before, they think it might be a toy, and they shoot their brother or something. That's heartbreaking and that shouldn't happen and it's just because we're ignorant. We learn everything about I-pods, we learn everything about how to work all of the various gadgets in cars with Bluetooth and stuff, but we don't learn about something simple and deadly like a gun. That's inexcusable.
I don't really have a problem with putting some kind of safeguards in place where somebody's not supposed to be having a gun because he's crazy and should be watched... Then the guns are not the problem, that individual person is an issue that needs to be watched.
I don't like the idea of government keeping records on who's got guns. Now, that does bring up the issue of how do we keep people who are crazy from getting guns and becoming a danger, but I'm pushed right back to the place I've already mentioned. There are people who are dangerous. We need to keep eyes on people who are dangerous. If somebody is mentally unstable, if somebody is a threat in any kind of way, and in each case heard recently, it was pretty well documented that the people who ended up shooting folks had serious mental problems. People knew it, and what did they do? Nothing. Isn't that a bigger problem?
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