Las Vegas; El Paso; Dayton; Columbine; elementary schools; high schools; churches with black people; churches with white people; movie theaters; shopping malls; McDonald’s; and the list goes on and on. Will this eventually happen in West Virginia? Yes. When and where? I have no clue. Does anyone want it to happen? No. Will anyone take even a single step to try to prevent it from happening? Anyone? Will you?
The Second Amendment to the Constitution states very clearly: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The preamble of our Constitution states that the intent of the document is to insure domestic tranquility; promote the general welfare; and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
And our Declaration of Independence, the founding document that sets forth in brilliant clarity the purpose for which this nation exists, tells us that we have certain unalienable rights which include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
My fellow West Virginians, I am not happy, and I want you to know that my unhappiness is shared by many of my fellow citizens. In fact, I want to share with you that the reason for my unhappiness is shared by what I believe to be a majority of the citizens of West Virginia. And now the secret is out.
We are unhappy because it appears more clear to us each day that these rules, set forth in our mighty founding documents, clash and collide in ways our Founding Fathers never dreamed. We want to have domestic tranquility, and we want to bear arms. We want to have the blessings of liberty and we want the unalienable right to live, and we want to bear arms. We want to be happy when we go to the mall and the movie theater and to our schools and classrooms and to our churches and synagogues and even when we go to buy a Happy Meal, and we also want no infringements on our right to bear arms.
We are unhappy because the majority of us know somehow, someway, these rules are not working. At least they are not working in harmony so as to permit us to achieve those things which we thought we were entitled to receive by the singular fact that we are Americans. And so the majority of us, those of us who want the rules to harmoniously coexist so we can be happy, have gradually come to the conclusion that something needs to change. Someone or something needs to give. Someone needs to compromise. Because if we do not, and if we stay on this course, we are doomed.
We in the majority come from all walks of life: college educated and high-school drop-out; employed and unemployed; old and young; black and white; male and female; parents and not; those who hunt and those who do not; those who own guns and those who do not; stubborn and bendable; gay and straight; believers and not; but Americans forever.
We are scared to speak our thoughts. We are frightened to say what we believe for fear of giving offense, of being chastised or belittled, of being voted out of office or being run out of town. We are therefore silent, mute, and, until now, content to watch the growing body count in this country with increased horror and revulsion.
We instinctively know the mass murder of young school children or attendees of a concert or people gathering to worship their God is not a political schoolyard game where people must choose shirts or skins, liberal or conservative.
We know in our hearts what importance we place on these various conflicting rules has nothing to do with our politics but has everything to do with our obligations as human beings. And how we go about reconciling the application of these rules to our modern life can and should center on one and only one thing: Can we as human beings come to some reconciliation of these rules that stops or at least lessens the mounting death toll?
Is there really anything else that matters? Is an argument even to be made that political philosophy and party affiliation/loyalty is more important than stopping or lessening the mounting death toll? Is anyone actually reading this column truly capable of looking in the mirror and convincing themselves it is more important to be true to the conservative movement or the NRA or the Republican Party that it is to stop or lessen the mounting death toll?
Those of us in the majority know enough is enough, that something must be done, and that hiding behind the closed doors and minds of the empty platitudes of years gone by does nothing to stem the flow of blood in our streets, our churches and our schools. Who among us will dare walk into an elementary school, look down at the body of a 5 year old shot to death in a kindergarten classroom, and tell our God, “I’m sorry but there is nothing I can do!”
We know there are many things we can do. Those of us who believe firmly in the right to bear arms can compromise and understand that to do so will help. Those of us who want to take away all the guns can compromise and understand that to do so will help. Please tell me who among you values the unfettered right to buy the type of “arms” which rapidly fire multiple rounds from high-capacity magazines more than you value the unfettered right of a 5 year old to live? What makes your right to bear arms in the manner espoused by the NRA any more important than the right of those killed in mass shootings to live?
How hard is it, West Virginia, to demand a meaningful discussion by our elected officials of these six steps?
1. Require universal criminal background checks on all gun purchases with an appropriate waiting period. No exceptions.
2. Ban gun sales to all people convicted of violent crimes, felonies or misdemeanors and domestic violence.
3. Stop selling guns that shoot multiple rounds in mere seconds. Ban high capacity magazines and semi-automatic rifles.
4. Ban assault weapons.
5. Ban the sale of guns to the mentally ill while increasing treatment for the mentally ill.
6. Require universal background checks for certain types of ammunition purchases.
Are these infringements on the right to bear arms? Perhaps, depending upon how one defines “arms.” But I define a bazooka as meeting the definition of “arms,” and I define a surface-to-air hand-held missile launcher as meeting the definition of “arms,” and I sure as hell do not want the Second Amendment to give an unfettered right to possess those “arms” to every American. Why? Because compromise dictates that everyone must bend somewhat when it comes to exercising their rights under their favorite founding document rule so that others can exercise their rights under those same documents.
We in the majority have been silent for far too long. We have been scared or intimidated or have found it will hurt us professionally or we have simply lacked the courage to stand up and speak up to start the process of stopping or lessening the blood now flowing in America. I have no doubt that the NRA and its minions will now turn it’s messaging to an urgent need to defend our homeland from the immigrants who are about to swarm our beloved America, never minding we are all immigrants or descendants from immigrants ourselves.
We need apparently to be prepared to stand behind the great wall we are building, armed to the teeth, to keep the inferior human beings at bay, forgetting our history of Georgia Gov. Clifford Walker at the 1924 Ku Klux Klan Convention where he urged America to “... build a wall of steel, a wall as high as Heaven ...” to keep immigrants out of America. What utter nonsense.
To those long-silent West Virginians, those with hearts that speak to us in clear and unequivocal terms that enough is enough, that we cannot remain silent, that we cannot stand by while history records we did nothing in the face of the continued empty arguments which hinge on the selective enforcement of one rule, one right, one line over another in documents written in a far different time, it is time to step out of the shadows. It is time to contribute to the debate, not as a liberal or as a conservative, not as a Republican or a Democrat, but as a genuine member of the human race. Please find your voice. Now. Before it happens to us.