What’s missing in our conversation on guns?

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By Dave Graber

It’s not the guns.

We in Big Horn County understand this.

At age 12, I took my .22 single shot to school so I could shoot some rabbits on the way home. Normally, I left it in a culvert. But this time, I left it behind the coal bucket in the cloak room of my one-room country school, where my job was carrying in the coal so the teacher could keep the pot-bellied stove fired up. I was caught by a 16-year-old eighth grader I respected and agreed not to bring it to school again. I took it out to the coal shed, opened the door no one else entered, and left it in the corner. My grandson is now the owner of that gun.

Fast forward to now.

Children dying from guns is not the guns’ fault. Like it’s not the cars we drive, nor the cancer genome, nor the helmets in football that can be lethal, nor the 50 caliber automatic rifles used in war.

Something’s missing in our conversation. That is the collective will of the citizens of this great nation.

The right even to volunteer in a hospital, school or daycare is earned through a rigorous permitting process. Earning the privilege to serve our nation’s interest on the battlefield is even more rigorous than many of these. We have a consensus in this great country that everyone should have a right to achieve any these privileges, but with a rigorous screening process.

Not everyone is expected to make it. It’s not expected that anyone can freely step into our schools to teach our children, into the hospital operating room for cancer surgery, or drive a car, or pilot a ship or plane, or even to go fishing or hunting. So why should anyone have easy access to technology that would enable them to step into a school or playground and kill our children?

Why in God’s name do we make it so easy for everyone to have weapons designed to kill people? Why should that be easier to access than technology and training to save lives, or to live productively? Why do we make a Second Amendment exception to the logical and careful public processes whereby anyone has the right to achieve such privileges?

To think we shouldn’t have in place permitting processes greatly more rigorous than any of the above is totally insane. None of the above processes or technologies are designed deliberately to fire a projectile at a lethal velocity, or otherwise destroy the life and human flesh of other citizens, no matter how great or small.

Like I said, it’s not the guns. We have this amazing opportunity now in Big Horn County and the nation to restore public respect for community oversight to protect our children from unqualified people handling technology that can easily kill our children. Rigorous screening processes to access that technology were abandoned under NRA pressure to reinterpret the Second Amendment decades ago. How can we redeem the bloodshed of our children because of these decades of failure? How did we get to this point in escalation of children’s deaths from gun owners gone amok?

Here’s the history we forgot. Our constitution ratification conventions in slave states tells the story in old archives of courthouses. The issue was the words, “a wellregulated militia.”

The recorded proceedings are now easily accessible from many sources; look up: “slavery / Second Amendment.” Those proceedings in state capitals in the south were controversial. Almost nonexistent was the fear of government taking private weapons from homes. On the contrary, slave states needed a “well-armed militia” to enter homes and arrest people who had private weapons. Of course – and this is crucial – they were slaves. Slave owners were horrified with the prospect of a federal national guard coming south to protect freed slaves.

The abolitionist movement that succeeded in Europe and south of the border failed in the U.S. when the Second Amendment was ratified. It took almost another century until President Abraham Lincoln brought us in step with other nations.

The right of a father of the darker races to use weapons to defend child, wife or home was meant to be unprotected by the Second Amendment. It allowed militia to be formed, in some cases requiring landowners to be owners of guns capable of military use. States and counties wanted to put down slave rebellions before they started.

From the very beginning, the defenders and writers of the Second Amendment sought to disguise the intent to use those weapons to preserve the brutality of slavery and the legalized human trafficking at its core. They said then, and we in Big Horn County haven’t been told otherwise, “This is all about the rights of individuals to bear arms of their choice.”

That’s a lie. Like most effective lies, it’s partly true. Yes, the conversations recorded at these proceedings did include fear of federal government troops coming to Richmond and Raleigh to disarm state and county militias built on personally- owned ordnance. But the thread that runs through in all the conversations was then the fear of taking away a government’s right do confiscate privately held guns in possessed by slaves in their homes.

We need to examine the role our history of slavery plays in the rising deaths of children from shootings, especially in school. I pray we can hold this back in Big Horn County.

It’s not the guns. And it’s not even the small percentage young men making bad choices with guns and drugs. Nor is it any longer militias under state government ordinances arresting everyone in a house where a gun might have been used to resist the human trafficking sanctioned then by law.

Thankfully, it’s our challenge now to finish the constitutional ratification process of the Second Amendment that went awry. The paranoia of irrational people fearing personal gun loss has been given more respect than our obligation to regulate citizens who handle lethal technology around children. Our president irrationally wants teachers to have this lethal technology with them in school.

We need the Second Amendment interpretation of 50 years ago restored or else the amendment rendered obsolete along with slavery. This way, our communities can together regulate any and all real threats to the safety of all children in school and home from violence, human trafficking and death.