This letter to the editor of Time, in response to the Virginia Tech shootings, is curious. The letter writer is from Toronto, so his perspective on our Constitution is probably a little bit different. Yet, what he says is similar to what we hear from many gun-control proponents in the United States. Here’s an excerpt:
If there are protections in the Constitution, drag that document kicking and screaming into the 21st century by amending it. Let the military and the police have their weapons, and let legitimate hunters and farmers have their long guns. But everyone else? Just let them try to club or stab 32 people to death in one go.
Marc Kramer, TORONTO
Clearly he misses the point that gun ownership among the citizenry is meant as a deterrent to tyrannical government, the kind where “the military and the police have their weapons”. To be fair, Mr. Kramer does not expect all citizens to be disarmed. I am left wondering who will decide who qualifies as a “legitimate” hunter? A farmer? So in the process of disarming citizens, we’re also to give the government the power to decide who meets a narrow definition of acceptable (long gun) gun owners. This argument is far too deferential to state power.
Still, Mr. Kramer’s argument disintegrates in the end because he implies that banning guns will end mass murder. I’m sure someone would have a difficult time stabbing 32 people to death in one go. But what about driving their car into a crowded area? Although these accidents weren’t intentional, is it crazy to believe that someone with murderous intentions could try the same? Should we now ban cars, except for those few who “need” them?
Guns and cars are different. I get that. But we’re not discussing them in the everyday, intended use context. We’re discussing what can be a weapon? Cars can easily be made a weapon, as can many different otherwise innocent objects. When put together, they can become a bomb.
The discussion must move beyond the simplistic “guns are icky and the Constitution is outdated for allowing them”.