our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness Phaedr. 244a


the gun issue

Letter to my local paper, back in 2009. Remember, I'm in Virginia.

In your 15 April editorial "No advice from mayor of NYC needed," you say Michael Bloomberg "doesn't get it," framing the thinking by saying that criminals being criminals, they will find a way to get guns. You claim that regulation takes away a citizen's "right to buy and sell firearms without a background check." My friend, it's the very same Second Amendment that provides for gun ownership that insists on a background check: the amendment reads "a well regulated militia." The Second Amendment doesn't prohibit gun regulation - it in fact compels it. Michael Bloomberg understands that his rights to regulation end at his own state's borders. He is asking you to regulate what so freely and without regulation passes beyond our own. By ignoring the weight and responsibility of what a true well-regulated militia means, you work to enable criminals. Why play this game, pretending otherwise? Rights imply responsibility.

There was some back and forth with the editor, and he agreed to run it. I explained:

I wrote the "arms" letter because it's important to remind people of the full wording of the amendment. Too often we see it stated as "the right to bear arms," yet the amendment is of a piece, two parts as you say -- but the atmosphere of law, order, the good of the community weaves those two parts inextricably together. Government is a dance of individuals in community. God given or not, Rights must be defined. And limits. Regulation is not the enemy: it's an essential part of living in a civilized, lawful community.

Hate groups, instability, and fear -- all on the rise. We see people who play on such things jacking up the tension by saying "they're trying to take our guns." It's distortion. No one wants police killed or people feeling that blowing up buildings is patriotic. No one wants us to become Mexico, or Bosnia, Palestine, or Oklahoma City. Indeed, there's plenty to be angry about, all of us reeling from Wall Street -- except the few who aren't, who got us here by taking advantage of their own lack of regulation. But -- we're all aware of the volatility around us. The potential for instability, a breakdown of the system. A breakdown that will help nothing and will most certainly harm innocents. Whose rights should government protect?

Thus -- I wish and hope that people understand that regulation is there to protect us all. Not as threat or a diminishment of rights. That's the discussion I hope to provoke.

I also felt a need to remember that we are all in this together. One community. The old Yes We Can, the We The People, implies WE. People have to be part of things, assets and not obstacles. In difficult times that reminder needs to come from all sides. Partners, not adversaries. I hope to provoke in a good way. :)

Strength in your work and in the community.