Paul Bonnifield: Can’t do nothing
January 26, 2013
The national crisis resulting from the mass murders in public places and schools has everyone soul searching. Should there be stronger gun control and more active response to mental disorders?
The Second Amendment to the Constitution states: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." That appears straightforward and simple; however, Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution states: "Congress shall have power to … provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States." Is the proposed gun control legislation covered under the "common defense and general welfare" clause, or under the Second Amendment?
The random drug testing legislation and the provisions of the Patriot Act are clear precedents supporting the "common defense and general welfare" clause at the expense of the civil rights and civil liberties protection of the first 10 amendments. Many citizens who stoutly oppose gun legislation on the grounds of protecting liberty are equally strong supporters of drug testing and the Patriot Act. What appears to be straightforward is not as simple as we would like.
Critics of gun legislation claim programs of background testing and other similar laws have failed. Have they? It generally is recognized that Congress has not provided the necessary funding to support gun control laws. The problem is not the laws but the failure of Congress to meet its constitutional requirement of providing for the general welfare by funding the laws it approves.
The NRA proposes armed officers be placed in schools. There is a multitude of serious problems connected with that. Among them are training, equipment, number of officers and assuring they are in the right location in the school building or grounds at the right time. To fund the program will cost billions of dollars. No one thinks the current Congress will come forward with that kind of funding. Congress won't even fund background checks.
Some school systems in Texas and other states are arming teachers. Good Lord, where are they going to keep all those guns — in the teachers' desks? Perhaps they should be kept in a safe where no one can get a gun quickly in case of an emergency.
There also are constitutional questions involved in locating and treating people with mental problems, but it is hard to argue that a person who kills several people in a school, church or theater is stable. They must be identified and treated. In dealing with the mental problem, we have the greatest opportunity of preventing terrible massacres.
It is argued that guns don't kill. People are killers. Perhaps, but a gunman without a gun is not a gunman. Both are required. It's also argued that if guns are controlled, only criminals will have guns. It would make it much easier for lawmen to identify criminals. The fewer the number of guns, the harder it is for a gunman to get a gun.
We have a choice to either do something about the killing of small schoolchildren or do nothing but talk about it. By acting, we at least are trying to correct a terrible wrong. If we make a mistake, it can be corrected. Doing nothing but talking about the problem is simply that — doing nothing. Nothing is nothing and worth nothing.
I would rather try and fail than sit around doing nothing. You and I may lose some constitutional rights, but those little school kids lost their lives.