Sunday January 20, 2013

PITTSFIELD

The Second Amendment of the Constitution states that "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed." The early writers were absolutely right, and these days we are very lucky. We have three well-regulated militias. One is the local police force for local security, the second is the state police force for interstate problems, and the third is the Army, just in case any other nation decides to invade us.

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Don’t laugh. Somebody must think we are in grave danger of being invaded. We spend seven times as much money on defense as China, 10 times as much as the Russians, 11 times as much as the French, and more than 20 times as much as the Germans. Back in 1791 the British were so determined not to let us go that it took a great big Revolutionary War for us to break away and stay away. And it did, indeed, require the muskets of the whole country to free us. (In those days, a musket was also needed to feed the family when you had to go out and get a deer for supper. So of course every adult male already had one.)

But these days I can’t wrap my brains around the idea that the Canadians are about to swarm over the border, beat the tar out of us, and make us all learn French. Or that the British will someday soon swish across the Atlantic and require a British accent in all public schools.

I can’t believe that even the most half-witted member of the National Rifle Association believes that the world would be a safer place if every nation on earth had a stash of atomic bombs at the ready. Why doesn’t the same reasoning apply to guns? Their stock answer is that you can’t get rid of all the guns in the country. True enough. But you could fairly quickly dilute the problem if you just stopped selling ammunition.

So I have the feeling that the reasonable souls in Vice President Biden’s group knew that the only way to solve the gun problem is to get rid of guns, but they don’t know how to do it. So they fall back on "gun control" measures like background checks, keeping the weapons small, strict laws about "training" and a genuine effort to identify the nut-cases. There will even be some psychiatrists assigned to study how much affect violent TV shows are having on children.

Frankly, much as I find the TV programs revolting, I doubt that they contribute much to our obsession with violence. When I was a little girl of six or so, my sister and I would snuggle up on the couch on either side of Daddy right after supper when he would read to us -- fairy stories, Tom Sawyer, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon," the "Red Fairy Book," the "Blue Fairy Book" and I don’t know what all. The fairy stories were pretty violent. I remember one bad witch who was sent by the king over a waterfall in a barrel lined with nails!

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Yes, in a book the illustrations don’t move, and on TV they do. But books and TV have something in common that flattens the emotional impact in both of them. The pictures don’t hurt.

So the only way to reduce gun violence is to get rid of guns.

Dorothy van den Honert is an occasionally Eagle contributor.