Arthur C. Hayhoe: Can we talk about guns now?


Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 10, 2011 at 11:20 p.m.

The health care debate provided plenty of examples that a debate over the Second Amendment and guns in America is long overdue.

We think Americans are ready for a close examination of the gun lobby's sacred cow, the Second Amendment. According to them any controls on firearms violates the Second Amendment and any expansion of gun rights, no matter how extreme, are protected by the Second Amendment.

This has produced a country with the weakest gun laws of any western industrialized democracy and a gun violence epidemic to match. Americans are tired of legislators supporting this sacred cow at the expense of public safety.

Second Amendment historians call it the archaic amendment. It served a very special and limited purpose when first written, and then passed into history its primary purpose fulfilled. Unfortunate the Second did not languish in history books, it was highjacked by those with insurrectionist views who needed an amendment that would serve and protect their assault on a federal government they considered to be the ultimate evil.

Historians point out that the Second was created to assure the original colonies they could train and arm their militias without interferences from the federal government. With that guarantee in place the original 13 colonies quickly created the world's greatest democracy. With no other purpose, the Second was sent to the history books.

But it didn't stay there very long. It was to have a new life as an insurrectionists bible. Are we to believe the gun lobby's version of the Second that our Founding Fathers were so dumb they wanted to conduct government with guns pointed at their heads, and would have done nothing to protect their fledgling democracy from insurrectionists?

The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and others highlights the many anti-government metaphors produced by the talking heads on Fox, Sara Palin, talk radio and our newly elected Florida congressman Allen West, a retired Army officer who made references about taking on the government he once served. For the far right the government, and those who work for it who do not toe the gun lobby line, are the enemy they need to "take out."

We are alarmed by the increase in violent anti-government statements and especially militia meeting with openly armed people talking about taking on our government.

Expect to see the gun lobby push even further to expand guns into every segment our society. Already 20 state governors, including in Florida, have signed laws pushed by the NRA allowing people to solve personal disputes with a gun.

We think the time has come for a serious talk about guns in America.

Arthur C. Hayhoe is executive director of the Florida Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Inc.

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