I read with great interest the comments regarding the need of additional measures to protect society from the menace of gun violence.

I like Butch am a gun owner. I own pistols, rifles, and shotguns. I like to shoot as a sport and a hobby. I do have a concealed weapons permit, the only time I have carried a concealed weapon is when I am traveling and I have the weapon in the center glove box of my truck.

Several of us in the class have been trained on the use of weapons; weapons that we were prepared to use to kill. In both Kosovo and Iraq I had to carry a loaded weapon whenever I left the compound. Thankfully I never had to fire a weapon in anger. It is a heavy responsibility particularly when you are in a crowded market place and you hear rifle fire; your first inclination is to shoot back, but where and at whom.

The question of Gun Control is always touchy—as everyone on both sides of the question are passionate in their beliefs.  But there are other issues that must be touched on in addition to gun control. Mental Health care and availability is one; but also what in our society leads us to settle disputes with guns and violence.

In short this is about Liberty and Order. The first is the individual right to bear arms, which despite the proponents who wish to believe otherwise was about preserving the right of the individual to resist the tyranny of government.[1] The 2nd Amendments wording leaves the reader confused as the meaning and intent.[2] The second is about order, the collective right of society to live in peaceful and ordered communities.

On the Liberty side restrictions on ownership of guns should not be overly burdensome. However as others areas of Constitutional jurisprudence has shown society may impose reasonable restrictions on individual rights when they threaten the collective right of citizens to live in an ordered society. For example the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that while freedom of assembly is a fundamental right that communities may set reasonable time, manner, and place restrictions. So the States right to impose reasonable restrictions that are not burdensome on the ownership of weapons is right and proper. Recent Supreme Court cases held that the restrictions which Washington DC and Chicago placed on the ownership of guns were burdensome; but the Court made it clear that individual restrictions such as magazine capacity, waiting periods were not burdensome and were within the purview of the State to provide for well-ordered communities.

It has only been in recent years that individuals have asserted a right to carry weapons openly in public. Why do they believe this is necessary? We do not live in the Wild West, we are not living in a Third World Country where we are engaged in daily battles with rivals and adversaries. We live in a generally well ordered society. What drives individuals to want to parade around in public with rifles more appropriate for Military Operations and pistols strapped as if they are going on a combat operation? Have we reached a point in our society where we believe our fellow citizens are a constant threat; have we reached a point in our society where we believe all levels of government threaten our individual liberties and that we need to be armed to protect ourselves? I do not have the answers.

Historically, the state (here I use it in a very generic sense to include local communities) has imposed necessary restrictions on the open carry of weapons. Dodge City Kansas, despite its reputation for lawlessness had a rule that prohibited the open carry of firearms. In part this was out of concern that cowboys with a pocket full of money, too much booze in their system would engage in shootouts that not only endangered themselves but also the innocent citizens of Dodge City. Likewise the state has an interested in insuring that anyone who wishes to carry a concealed weapon know how to use it properly.

One only has to watch the recent example of a bunch openly carrying their long guns in public where they had their fingers on the triggers to know they knew nothing of how to properly use their weapons.

The other issue is why has our society found it useful to resort to violence in settling disputes, and in particular why the notion of shooting to kill as a means to settling disputes. I suspect in part it is the glorification of weapons and violence in video games, movies, and other media outlets. I also suspect that many resort to acts of violence out of a need to prove themselves, or out of a belief that they have no future so killing an enemy, an adversary, or just someone who has dissed can’t make your life any worse.

Lastly we have a mental health crisis in this nation. I know first-hand. I had a period shortly after retiring where I went into a very deep depression. Luckily I had the wherewithal to have my wife lock up all the weapons in the house and to change the combination to the safe. I was also lucky that my depression was treatable, that I was able to get help, and that I now realize that I will always have to take meds to control my depression just like I take Lipitor to keep the oil level in my blood in check. I was ill—but too many of us still treat mental illness as some type of boggey man.

The State, federal, state, and local governments, have to finds ways to treating those with mental illness and to end its stigma. Like many things we do in our society, when we closed down and emptied the State mental hospitals many were put out into to society who had no coping mechanisms and despite the promises the community based mental health services have not been well funded and too many people fall through the cracks.

Whether it was the shooting in Connecticut, Colorado, Charleston, or yesterday in Roanoke they all had one thing in common—the gunman was mentally ill.

[1] James Madison’s original wording was changed by the 1st Congress to the language found in the current 2nd Amendment. Madison’s landing was: ” The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well-armed and well-regulated militia being the best security of a free country; but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

[2] 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.

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