Sunday’s With George: Essays From 90 Years Of Living. What’s George Writing About This Week? Guns.

A Contentious Amendment

“A well-regulated militia being being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  Thus reads the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It is a single, complex sentence that has provoked considerable debate among all U.S. citizens, especially those scholars and lawmakers who consider themselves to be knowledgable, if not outright experts, in constitutional law.  it has led to differing interpretations that have split the country into factions;  strict interpreters of the written word and those who may take the broader view of the founders’ intent.  

While the debate continues, the strictest interpreters of the amendment, including the National Rifle Association and a large number of congresspeople, have seized the opportunity to influence  both national and state deliberative  bodies.  The result has been a sort of carte blanche for gun rights advocates nationwide.  All manner of guns can be legally purchased, from pea-shooters to fully automatic weapons of war that are capable of holding and rapid-firing a hundred rounds of ammunition.  In this sense, and proven by the rising incidences of mass shootings, it has become abundantly evident that the original intent of the founders has been preempted and turned into a national gun-fest.

In the light of the burgeoning mayhem in our streets, it is evident that certain limitations on gun ownership must be implemented.  The debate over unlimited vs. limited gun ownership rights is fast becoming moot, and there seems to be no amount of good will among thoughtful people, nor have nationwide police efforts been the slightest bit effective in curbing, much less eliminating the mayhem in the streets.  Where do we need to be going, as a nation, to ensure the “liberty and justice for all” to which we have hopefully aspired?

First, a quick look at the Amendment itself.  It consists of a single, complex sentence, with both a dependent and an independent clause.  The meaning of the amendment would have been crystal clear, had they simply written the independent clause, “The right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.”  That would have given us a single interpretation of the words.  But no, they went and added the dependent clause about “A well-regulated militia being necessary…”.  This resulted in one of the most confusing, and in the opinion of many scholars, poorly-written pieces of language in the entire Constitution.  In other words, they muddied the waters by giving the “right of the people”  a direct clausal relationship to the apparent meaning that the well-regulated militia has some kind of pre-eminence in the possession of arms.  That is, it seems to mean that the “right” embodied in the amendment is actually subject to their use in terms of the people’ participation in a state militia.  The prevailing interpretation of the amendment is that the first (dependent) clause has no bearing on the intent of the founders, which is the full and untrammeled  right of the people to bear arms, with no restrictions or limitations.  Again, the entire amendment is confusing at best, and poorly written at worst.  It has left us with a rat’s nest of interpretative issues which are far from being settled.

Meanwhile, we continue to grapple with a choice between common sense and politics.  Common sense would dictate that some limitation of the public’s possession of weapons of mass destruction would be a reasonable solution.  Practical politics have shown us that the most fervent defenders of the “literal word” of the 2d Amendment must be strictly adhered to, even when the consequences clearly tell us that is isn’t working the way it was originally intended.  I expected a better job from our framers/founders, but in their defense, I don’t think that the AR-15 and AK-47 had been contemplated back in the eighteenth century.  

Still, we have to grapple with the results, and it is becoming an existential matter that we if we are to preserve our most cherished institutions, like schools and churches.  It’s time we realized that the Constitution was written by fallible men without the gift of unlimited foresight, and we can still set things right, while preserving our “right to bear arms.”

George Thatcher

July 2023

Every Death a Disaster

I can usually find something humorous to lighten up my writing, but when I start thinking about all the misery out there, my lighthearted self retreats into a state of near-catatonic.  I just can’t find anything remotely funny about hurricanes, COVID pandemics, Alzheimer’w deaths.  You know – real life tragedies.

And doesn’t it seem that the incidence of all these things is increasing lately?  Maybe it’s just that I’ve lived in times where the reporting wasn’t as thorough.  Maybe the government used to be better at propagandizing us to seep a lid on the really bad news.  Or it could be that there really wasn’t as much bad news to report back then.  But I’m getting this increasing sense of dread about the state of the world, and how we seem to be throwing gasoline on an already-calamitous world fire.  

And I can’t seem to shake this eerie feeling of deja vu, where it concerns the world situation.  It seems like just yesterday that the world avoided an existential crisis by defeating the Nazis and Japanese aggressors in World War II.  That was supposed to have been the ultimate “peace in our time,” but has that ever really materialize?  For that matter the earlier 20th Century of 1914-1918 saw the “Great War of All , Time,” which ended with a Treaty of Versailles that all but guaranteed another war in Europe.  But since WWII, we’ve had wars in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and now a state of great fragility with Iran and Saudi Arabia, China and Russia, plus a mess in Africa that nobody understands.  And now we’re fighting a “proxy war” in Ukraine, with no hope in sight for a near-term settlement.  Not that this isn’t the most worthy of causes, but isn’t it enough, already?

Yet amid all this potential for impending doom, here we are in the South Plains of Texas, seemingly unaffected by urban carnage all around us.  Why, we haven’t even had a major tornado in Lubbock for many years.  But dare we even approach the possibility of a mass shooting here in the Hub City?  Or have we created an island of relative security in an ocean of chaos?  If only.

True, many cities, of all sizes and ethnic compositions, have had the misfortune of being sites of mass mayhem.  It usually amounts to someone consumed by hate or rage, a despondent loner or a student who is susceptible to influence by fringe groups to which he can actually “belong.”  Or it is someone with a real mental/emotional disorder.  In every case these types have access to weapons, usually the type that can produce the most destruction for the least effort.  So far, we have been spared that particular kind of tragedy, but I would suggest that we’re right up there with the leaders in overall deaths-per-capita.  But instead of committing a one-time calamity, we’re picking them off one at a time.

I offer no stats in support of this thesis, but I read the paper (useless tho it may be) and watch the news.  And what I see is that we have either a murder or a violent death by automobile every day of the week.  We’d really grab the national headlines if we saved all the killings for a batch-per-month, repeated a dozen times per year.  We’d have every possible media outlet and all the law enforcement that the state and/or country can amass.  Our ugly underside would be examined, dissected, analyzed and sewn back together with a patchwork of the same old after-the-fact solutions.  But they wouldn’t work, as they haven’t so far.

Because we don’t have the courage to speak truth to power, and solve the problem while our government is still in charge.  We have misappropriated the concept of guilt, by laying the blame on the gun and not on the person(s) who fire it.  We continue to believe that an AR-15 is the weapon of choice, not just for home defense but for sport-hunting.  We have not been preemptive in identifying people with mental health issues in combination with potential for violence.  And we have contributed to the problem by letting social media become the petri dish for malcontent.

I don’t believe that Armageddon is just around the corner, at least not the first corner we round.  But it’s out there, lurking.

George Thatcher

July 2023  

George is an American Bad Ass. He grew up in Jersey, flew B-52s in Vietnam, taught English, Spanish and other languages to children around the world, makes his own salsa, has been known to enjoy a beer or two and has called Lubbock home for a few years, just to entertain the locals. Welcome to Raiderland, Major. We are going to feature some of his writings going forward. Some new, some old. Some rhyme, some don’t. When it comes to George, there’s no box. So… enjoy our friend and enjoy his writings! – Hyatt