Sunday, June 29, 2008

between the eyes_gun control

Poachers kill deer by shining light between their eyes; then shooting them between the eyes. In dear hunting 101 this is defined as shining and described as illegal. Deer hunters can be law-abiding, responsible citizens or poachers. The decision to poach is not made when the gun is purchased, it is made when a passion is activated that overcomes respect for laws natural and man-made. The decision to kill deer is made when the gun is purchased. Decisions and passions are always at play in determining the effects of guns.

Since the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling suggesting that there is a constitutional individual right for law abiding citizens to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense I have been in a dissonant limbo. I have been trying to discern how my experience can contribute to the discourse, what I truly believe about the Constitution, lessons of history, the value of discourse and the significance of grammar in the discernment of intent in authorship. Like the 27 words and 60 some amicus briefs the conclusions have not been matter of fact. However,facts have been substantive.

Starting with my shallows: I was relatively certain I believed in the idea of a living constitution, that the spirit of liberty guarantees discussion not rightness and history; it is essential to interpretive context. Exploring these assumptions I relearned that Jefferson felt the strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. That the Minutemen 'worldview' is a substantive context for interpretation of the Second Amendment but arms and the consequences of their proliferation have changed more than government. As a child I was inspired by Justice Holmes through stories heard while touring the homestead . There ideas were rooted like
we must interpret our Constitution "in the light of our whole experience and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago."

The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas [and] the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market
I was reminded that DC voting rights have yet to be secured. Ironically, the right to handguns have now been. But the strongest lesson was the from the day in my VISTA service that I was to role-play Patty Hearst in a Police SWAT Training having my own American Experience. That day remains with me as does this understanding: the decision that you can kill is made the day you acquire a gun not the day you use it. Gun use is rarely rationale. And while the lives lost that touch my personal story are many and none have been by gun - all have been by passion.
So did I reach a conclusion: VT and DC represented the gun law extremes. Law-abiding people can disagree. And I will not knowingly befriend anyone who finds it necessary to own a handgun. Accidents happen. And today it is the dissent of Justice Breyer who argues for balancing public safety against individual rights that speaks truth to me, In my shallows I favored gun control in 1979. However, on S.W.A.T. Police Training Day it took only 4 hours to turn me into a killer of men. The solid grammar arguement aside:
One can, rationally, sensibly, logically read “shall not be infringed” as taking TWO, DISCRETE antecedents: (1) “A well regulated Militia being necessary” and (2) “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” — so that the amendment precludes infringement of TWO SEPARATE things (a) A well regulated militia and (b) “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”Thanks Loup-bouc

The living constitution can change through interpretation. A living constitution will have well articulated dissent.

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