Thursday, June 26, 2008

What’s Going On.

I have always liked the phrase “What’s Going On?” because it’s one of those questions that inquire far more deeply than their words suggest on the surface. When someone sees a huge car pile up on the highway and says “What’s Going On?” they can clearly see the car crash… what they cannot see, is what caused it, what's behind it all. In America “What’s Going On?” has increasingly become a rhetorical question in the years since Marvin Gaye turned it into song about the Vietnam war, his own time and its troubles. The ever-increasing rhetorical nature of such a direct and open question is a sign that we Americans just don’t expect an answer to certain questions anymore. We say “What’s Going On?” we don’t ask “What’s Going On?”. It’s an exclamation of the modern age, like “Holy Shit” or “Oh My God”. Like most exclamations, it does little to inform and nothing to change a situation. Which brings me to today’s Supreme Court decision.

In the Constitution of the United States of America, the second amendment states: “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.”, which is a pretty open statement on the surface, -except when you start to look at all those commas and start to really think about what they might imply…

I, don’t, think, the founders, were, trying, to be, cute, or dramatic.

Remember that these were learned, educated men, adoring of the Roman Republic and its structure of rule, from which they culled the ideas behind many doctrines, laws, and acts like Posse Comitatus and Habeas Corpus. There have always been at least two schools of thought on the indications of the Second amendment:
1) All of the people have the right to keep AND bear arms.
or 2) Only the people serving in a well regulated militia have the right to keep AND bear arms.

Today, The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. The case in question, "DC versus Heller", eliminates a total ban on handgun ownership within the nation’s capital. Today’s ruling still allows restrictions and legislation on gun ownership: laws that identify which individuals among the people can not have the right to own a gun to safeguard the rest of the people. Individual states or municipalities and counties can continue to prohibit concealed weapons, as well as “dangerous and unusual weapons” such as automatic machine guns, and ordnance like armor piecing bullets can still be made illegal.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority of 5 in today’s decision:
Undoubtedly, some think the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable but what is not debatable is that, it is not the role of this court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.

So “What’s Going On?”, or rather what’s really going on?
I have to say, in the interest of full disclosure that I love guns. I love the fact that I live in a country where I have the right to protect myself, with the very means the government does (Although that didn’t work out too well for David Koresh down in Waco).
Yes. I love them. I don’t see why anybody should get their ass kicked by somebody else who happened to be born from a taller set of parents. As Chris Rock once said on stage: “I love guns. With a gun, I don’t need to workout.” And liberal that I am, I must concede that the NRA is right on one point: -guns don’t kill people, -people kill people. A gun lies harmlessly in a drawer, or safe without a human being to load it, unhitch the safety and fire it, or otherwise accidentally discharge it through misuse. So maybe it’s more like –guns don’t kill people, -people with guns kill people.

But loving guns as much as I do, I have to ask The Supreme Court (let’s call them the "Scalia 5" for today in deference to this decision that addresses an issue sidestepped for about 217 years and to absolve the 4 who opposed) and the NRA and the various lobbyists and special interest groups protecting sportsman and hunter’s rights, how can they can applaud a move to safeguard the right to be armed, without safeguarding the right of us all to simply “be”?

While the ruling still allows for restrictions to be handled on the state level, we all know how aggressively gun enthusiasts and the American gun lobby (Really, really not the same people which is something I’ll get to in a minute) fight background checks, gun ID, gun owner ID, which would go a long, long way to identify violent criminals and well, crazy people, about to buy guns. They have also vigorously opposed waiting periods, although not always successfully.
“What’s Going on” is, the NRA’s mission of making the world safe for: gun manufacturing; distribution; and sale, is purposely confused with the grassroots roots gun culture’s individualist, libertarian and anti-authoritarian posture in America. This has more to do with the gun industry’s desire to tie the ready availability for sale of any gun, of any kind, or caliber, anywhere (i.e. their products), -than with the American gun owners’ fears that the government will disarm him and strip him of the guns he has. The reason the NRA does this is obvious. But no one asks “What’s Going On?” when they have their large meetings with celebrity members in tow or on the podium. Nobody asks what a “bargain” hand gun sold or illegally resold on a Saturday night in a city has to do with the second amendment or the “security of a free state”.
By way of a warning, I would say to all my fellow Americans everywhere: You don’t have to support the dangerous unregulated proliferation of weapons, in order to maintain your right to arm and protect yourself. This ruling came down today, and all I could think was, -we never passed the ERA did we? The right to bear arms is more important to Americans than equality for all.
What is Going On? Maybe someone should ask “What the Fuck is Going On?” instead.

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