Mark L. Hopkins: Gun control - what would our Founding Fathers think?
During a recent civic club speech I asked the question, “How many of you own a gun?” Virtually every hand in the room went up. Just below the murmur of voices I heard the comment, “We are Southern.” And so they were. Legislation for gun control is never going to fare very well in some parts of our country. The provision in our Bill of Rights related to bearing arms was passed by Congress 1789 by an almost unanimous vote.
Our forefathers believed strongly that it was necessary for citizens to “bear arms” in that time before local police departments and a standing military were available to keep our citizens safe. However, we must acknowledge that these are very different times from those revolutionary days when the provision for the right to bear arms seemed absolutely necessary for personal security. Still, the fight between public safety and the right to own guns seems to intensify each year.
Awhile back, former candidate for president, Mike Huckabee, declared on his radio show that more people were killed by hammers than by rifles. In the year he was citing that statistic he was absolutely right. Rifles killed 323 people while hammers killed 496. I looked it up. However, to show how limited comments can mislead, I would point out that if you expand rifles to include all guns and hammers to include all blunt objects, the number of U.S. deaths by guns expands to more than 37,000 while the number by blunt instruments expands only slightly.
The issue of gun control remains a matter of major contention in our society. Hand guns are a special problem, especially the “midnight specials” with serial numbers filed off so they can’t be traced and the AK 47s and Uzis that out-gun our policemen.
My father lost his arm in a hunting accident at the age of 15 and was, understandably, strongly opposed to guns. When I was a teenager, my grandfather bought a BB gun for me one Christmas. I thought it was wonderful, but I knew my father did not approve. They had “words” over it. Thus, my attitude toward guns was shaped by a family tragedy a generation before I was born. We read that senseless tragedies occur every year by careless handling of guns in the home and on the hunt. Statistics tell us that a gun in the home is three times more likely to kill a family member than a home invader.
To balance the argument, in a BBC interview, a Russian official commented about the impossibility of ever conquering North America. He said that “Because of the 50 million guns spread over the population an invader would face a century of gorilla warfare.” He was wrong about the “50 million guns.” The number is well over 300 million. It gives me comfort to know that the despots of the world worry about our armed citizenry.
If given the opportunity to eliminate the right to bear arms from the Bill of Rights, would our Founding Fathers continue to support that “right” or would they change their opinion? I suspect they would still support the “right,” but they would be much less unanimous than they were back in 1789.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Hopkins’ latest book, “Journey to Gettysburg,” is now available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.