The Sandy Hook incident in Newton, Connecticut had our President drop a tear and lowered the flags of the nation at half-staff. In a shooting rampage reportedly by one of the Lanza brothers (Ryan was the first suspect, now he is talking to police about his brother Adam, who might have a neural disorder), 28 people were killed, 20 of them children. The school has students from kindergarten to fourth grade.
Two hundred twenty-one years ago, Dec. 15, 1791, the United States Congress passed the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment is worded, "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." The first comma is missing in the version ratified by the States. No matter, the right to bear arms is the intent of the amendment.
During America’s revolutionary period, there were many reasons to protect one’s right to bear arms. Wikipedia lists the following in no particular order: deterring tyrannical government, repelling invasion, suppressing insurrection, facilitating a natural right of self-defense, participating in law enforcement, and enabling the people to organize a militia system. The image of the Minuteman in Lexington, MA is in every American’s mental playground!
In my social process scheme of the economic, political, and cultural dynamics, the impetus for the legislation in the political was the desire to maintain domestic tranquility. Case law has since evolved to define that right, and to this day, the right to bear arms remains a U.S. constitutional right fervently defended by the powerful Vienna, VA-based NRA.
In light of the recent assault on the American consciousness brought about by the Sandy Hook incident, preceded by the Oregon mall, Aurora cinema, and the Columbine rampage, we must once again raise the issue of individual rights up before the mirror of social responsibility. Surely, the question of securing domestic tranquility has gone way beyond the capabilities of handguns and assault weapons, but in our cultural heritage is a deeply seated defense of the "gun culture," from Paul Revere’s alert of the Red Coat’s heading to Concord’s armory, to our Texan’s ever vigilant call to remember the Alamo.
A country that spends half of its discretionary budget on defense spending is not too distant from a culture of mass destruction. Defense right (in the language of homeland security) is foisted as a rationale to maintaining order, domestically and globally, in an unruly universe, by the self-appointed police of the world. The metaphors of competition, conflict, and war remain as the primary image of our social discourse.
On the personal level, one of our own Saipan residents, after his home and his diminutive wife were assaulted by an intruder, opined on the "draconian gun ban" in the CNMI. He wrote in the ST in 2010: "Gun ownership in the United States of America is a right, not a privilege. Owning a car is a privilege. Owning a cell phone is a privilege, Internet access... a privilege, having Cable TV... a privilege... Self-defense is a right!"
Our sympathies are with the writer. We do note that any gun ban in American territory has been observed in the breach rather than the rule. My impression of how authorities handle handguns and assault weapons in their personal capacities is not a favorable one. The traffic of guns in the Pacific reportedly occurs in the confluence of criminal elements under legal cover.
Individual rights are always weighed in the context of social responsibility. The historical context to guns in America is domestic tranquility, and that cannot be maintained and sustained by simply allowing citizens the right to bear arms. In fact, the record holds the reverse. Believing that access to tools to inflict fatal solution on unwanted intrusions has only been exploited by the malcontents against the unwary, and the innocents are known to suffer.
We think of the British ban on guns and the unarmed bobby of London. The Yakuza, known to inflict muscle on the strength of the bullet, has not been deterred by Japan’s banning of the handguns, a reason often used to returning the right to bear arms back to Nippon’s citizens. The throve of Japanese tourists in shooting galleries on Saipan and all throughout the Pacific (Waikiki hand bills shows bikini-clad girls holding rifles) shows a native fascination with guns in Japan since Commodore Perry alighted on its shores.
In 2008, figures reveal that of the 12,000 homicide cases involving handguns in the U.S., there were 11 in Japan. The U.S. has the loosest restriction in owning handguns in the world! Japan holds one of the strictest. There were two handgun-related homicides reported last year.
What is clear to me is to have a national and local conversation on the second amendment, then move it into every family’s dining table (Kilili’s office might want to get some figures from the CNMI’s experience in aid of legislation). If guns remain as the toy of choice (because they are cheap as well as preferred) under the Christmas tree this season, then we further the culture of guns in a manner as casually as we hold motherhood and apple pie.
In China’s latest assault on schoolchildren, 22 were reported to have been slashed with the knife. Just think if the despairing culprit had a gun!