Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My thoughts on Jason Alexander's twitter piece on gun ownership, assault weapons and then some...

First let me say I wouldn't own an assault weapon. Why? No need for it. I also am not sure I'd mind if assault weapons were banned. That said, I really loathe the continued assumptions that everyone who owns guns, including assault weapons are a danger to society, and that people who own guns are right wing nuts. It's just as ludicrous as saying people who don't own guns are flaming liberals. It's.Just.Not.True!

I'm prompted to write this in response to actor Jason Alexander's second tweet in response to the shootings in Aurora at where he talks about his stance on gun ownership, particularly assault weapons, the definition of a well-regulated militia and also the responses he received about his statements.  I think Jason Alexander wrote a very well-thought out piece, on a subject he feels very strongly about. I simply disagree with him on a few points.

First, his statement:  "I'll say it plainly - if someone wants these weapons, they intend to use them. And if they are willing to force others to "pry it from my cold, dead hand", then they are probably planning on using them on people."   

He makes a pretty bold statement. If this were indeed true, that every person who owned or had access to an assault weapon were planning to use them on people, we would see a lot more mass murders going on in this nation. In reality, when it comes to gun ownership, there are many more law abiding than not. In my lifetime I've known a lot of people who own guns (I know just as many non-owners!), and I've known a few who had assault weapons and they were owned legally and for a variety of reasons, none of which included mass murder, self-defense or hunting. They openly admitted they liked to shoot them and enjoyed collecting them. Their hobby of collecting guns was no different than someone's hobby of collecting glass frogs. It's just a matter of appeal. I would not associate with anyone who is violent or who would use guns to intentionally murder people. I can say completely and without reservation that the motives of the people I knew, who owned them, were never in question, by me or anyone else. They were law-abiding, hardworking, decent people. I'd also like to add that they were from a variety of racial, religious, political and socio-economic backgrounds.

Second, his statements:  "Then there are the tweets from the extreme right - these are the folk who believe our government has been corrupted and stolen and that the forces of evil are at play, planning to take over this nation and these folk are going to fight back and take a stand....And amazingly, I have some minor agreement with these folks. I believe there are evil forces at play in our government. But I call them corporatists. I call them absolutists. I call them the kind of ideologues from both sides, but mostly from the far right who swear allegiance to unelected officials that regardless of national need or global conditions, are never to levy a tax. That they are never to compromise or seek solutions with the other side. That are to obstruct every possible act of governance, even the ones they support or initiate. Whose political and social goal is to marginalize the other side, vilify and isolate them with the hope that they will surrender, go away or die out. "

"These people believe that the US government is eventually going to go street by street and enslave our citizens. Now as long as that is only happening to liberals, homosexuals and democrats - no problem. But if they try it with anyone else - it's going to be arms-ageddon and these committed, God-fearing, brave souls will then use their military-esque arsenal to show the forces of our corrupt government whats-what. These people think they meet the definition of a "militia". They don't. At least not the constitutional one. And, if it should actually come to such an unthinkable reality, these people believe they would win. That's why they have to "take our country back". From who? From anyone who doesn't think like them or see the world like them. They hold the only truth, everyone else is dangerous. Ever meet a terrorist that doesn't believe that? Just asking."

Alexander makes it appear that this is an issue about politics and sexual orientation. It's not, never has been.  Also, why is it that this has to be a left vs. right issue? Listen, I wrote a piece a few days ago where I discussed the idea that one of the reasons so many Americans want to defend the right to own firearms goes back to the root of who we are as a nation. In my piece, I wrote: "...the deep-rooted belief that owning firearms is an American tradition, something that has been an integral part of who we are, from the moment this nation was founded. America was born out of the struggle to break free from English tyranny and the most basic means of defense since that time has been the use of firearms. The desire to be free and to protect ourselves from the tyranny of government has been ingrained in us for generations. It's just something that's been a part of our culture since our forefathers founded this nation. It's about survival and there's nothing wrong with it but it is important to recognize that it is an vital part of who we are as a people and a nation."

You don't have to be left, right, Democrat or Republican to believe in the possibility of one day having to protect one's self and community from a hostile, tyrannical government entity. True, there are whacked out conspiracy theorists who are constantly running from the invisible "black helicopters" but in reality there are just a lot of average, everyday people out there who believe it is a possibility. Honestly, we really don't know which elected officials truly have our best interest in mind and given the state of the world in this day and age, it's not unreasonable that people would feel this way. When judging this frame of mind, just remember how our nation was founded, what our ancestors endured, and why they fought to separate from England. It's neither right nor wrong to believe it could happen, it's just the survival instinct and the train of thought that has been passed down from generation to generation.  (I'll go one step further, consider this, either one believes the government is capable of turning on the people or one believes it is not. Both views could be considered radical, however neither is right nor wrong, it just depends on the person.) 

Third, his statement, "The advocates of guns who claim patriotism and the rights of the 2nd Amendment - are they in well-regulated militias? For the vast majority - the answer is no." Alexander attempts to define (as we have all done at one time or another) the term "militia" using the dictionary definition. He cites Merriam-Webster's definition which is: a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency, a body of citizens organized for military service, and the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service.

The Second Amendment reads: 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.

Scholars, gun advocates, anti-gun advocates and politicians have been attempting to define the meaning of the second amendment for decades. The problem is that not everything in the Constitution has a strict literal meaning and interpretation. If it were so, we wouldn't need a Supreme Court to hash these things out for us. Even the Supreme Court Justices have disagreed on whether or not the Second Amendment protects the individual's right or of that of the "well-regulated militia".  There are various interpretations of it including that the Second Amendment is irrelevant because the United States has no militia, that the individual has the right to bear arms only if associated with a state militia, and that the individual right to bear arms is a basic fundamental right as is the right to free speech. In US v. Miller, 1939, the SCOTUS upheld that the individual had a right to bear arms but only if those arms would actually be useful in a citizen militia.

If you look at the meaning of the Second Amendment from the Founders point of view, which you really have to do considering it was passed during their time and not ours, it is understandable that they would think it necessary that all individuals be allowed to carry arms for the purpose of enabling militias to fight tyrannical government entities and this was not just limited to tyrannical government abroad but at home as well. They feared an all-too powerful government within America's own borders. Now, many would say that more than two hundred years later, and with our current US military, we no longer need militias but one could argue that the all-volunteer military in the United States is not the same as a militia nor is it likely to be used as a militia for the purposes the militia may have originally been intended. Keep in mind that our military serves at the whim of the President and Congress, the very government entity which the Founders were concerned could abuse its power, thus fueling the need for a militia.

While I may disagree with some of the points Jason Alexander made in his tweets, I defend his right to speak his mind. I think that he should speak his mind on this issue as often as he likes because that's what this country was founded on--debate and discourse.  I am disgusted and appalled at the way people have treated him, calling him nasty names and making threats. Now, Alexander thinks many of these people espousing their hatred towards him are right-wing gun owners and gun advocates (and that may be partly or completely true) but I think he would agree with me that ignorance and rudeness know no bounds and are not restricted to political affiliation or beliefs, race, gender, sexual orientation, education, religion or socio-economic background. Ignorance comes in all forms and because we have something called free speech in this country, we must allow even the ignorant to have their say.

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