Enough by Al Sikes

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An article on the eve of the Never Again march in Washington kept quoting students observing that the “system is rigged.” A rigged system would deny their right to speech and petition. But, on one level they are right.

Constitutional freedoms that allow marches, posters and chants also allow people and companies with enormous capital, the same access. Let’s use gun control illustratively.

First the Constitution, in an 18th Century context, protects the right to own a gun. The framers were thinking of the right of people to rise up against concentrated power, as happened in our Revolutionary War.

Now almost 250 years later and generations of gun technology later, an ideology has been successfully shaped by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that has subordinated, implicitly, the freedom to think straight.

Vaclav Havel, the cerebral force behind the Velvet Revolution, showed with absolute clarity how the Soviet system of mind control worked. The Soviets used the phrase “Workers of the World Unite” to give its domination an emotional center. In fact the Soviets subordinated hundreds of millions to the dominant bureaucracy that ruled the Soviet Union and Warsaw Bloc nations. The last thing the Soviet hierarchy wanted was for the workers of the world to actually unite.

In the United States, the NRA has been no less successful with most Republicans and many Democrats. The NRA warps the Constitution by insisting that the right to bear arms (virtually any arms) is absolute. Then they supply the necessary political weapons; money and single issue voters. Regardless of how contorted some of its claims are, millions have signed on for a variety of reasons having little to do with the underlying rationale of protecting Americans from home grown oppressive power.

Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in a recent Op-ed, said we need to amend the Constitution’s Second Amendment which reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Constitutional amendments are as difficult as reviving a person from cryogenic sleep. What we need are Supreme Court Justices that will yield to common sense, but first they have to be presented with something that makes sense.

The Second Amendment was not intended to make the use of a 21st Century weapon easier than a smart phone. The latter requires either a digital or biometric password and is indelibly linked to its owner. Nothing is more personal than a smart phone; the same should be true of a gun. Personalizing a gun does not guarantee responsibility, but it links irresponsibility with potentially dire consequences and evidence of culpability.

There was a time when I was an NRA member to support their gun safety program. I am a hunter and know the potential for horrendous accidents when a gun is used carelessly.

I also know that today we provide more protection for waterfowl than we do for humans—a lot more. Legally, waterfowl hunters must plug their gun so that only three shells can be fired without re-loading. And there are game wardens in the field to enforce hunting restrictions.

The emotional dial has been moved by frequent mass shootings and youthful leadership. The NRA notwithstanding, I believe the next three years will bring major changes in gun control. My principal recommendation: personalize gun ownership.

I hope as well that the Hollywood types that were so evident during the marches will bring pressure to stop nihilistic video games (I am not optimistic).

Finally, while I believe the Never Again movement is encouraging, it seems inclined to dismiss efforts at compromise. The NRA successes have been sustained by a bi-partisan coalition. Cycles that favor the right or left will not end; bi-partisan laws have continuity.

Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books. 

Letters to Editor

  1. I pretty much agree with Mr Sikes here with a couple of exceptions. If one were a “strict constructionist” the 2nd Amendment might not be interpreted as the NRA would have us believe. The founding fathers wanted State Militias to be armed and there to be no restrictions on this. There was no real standing army. Most people believed themselves to be citizens of, for example, Maryland. I am not a Constitutional Historian but some better versed than I have put this position forward.
    There is no way Mr. Sikes or I, with our 12 ga. shotguns are going to be very successful in starting or putting down a revolution. BTW, my newest gun, a Beretta autoloader with minimal recoil for my old body, was made to hold a max. of 3 shell…… built for an international market.
    Personalizing guns may not be very effective for a long long time. My newest shotgun is about 6 years old. I have several over 20 and one about 100 years old. All but the last one are used on a regular basis and all are in good shape. Guns last a long time. A civil war musket will still fire if cleaned. I do not fire mine.
    Personalizing hand guns is a very good idea but the same caveats still apply.

    • Al sikes says:

      Agree, we are awash in guns. I doubt mandatory retrofit for certain guns would work. We have to start somewhere.

  2. David Lloyd says:

    “……waterfowl have more protection than humans.” Wow. Think about that, those of you who think owning an assault rifle is your absolute right. Three bullets used against waterfowl, dozens against high school kids. Think about that.

    • Bill Todd says:

      Waterfowl do not have more rights than people. A person has the right to shoot 3 “bullets” into waterfowl. No person has a right to shoot ANY bullets at or into a human. Would the soviet union been successful if the millions of people had been adequately armed?
      I think the last thing the soviet hierarchy wanted was an “armed” worker to unite. Suddenly when it come to interpreting the second amendment liberals adopt an originalist interpretation of the constitution; ” the Constitution, in an 18th Century context” and other comments. For everything else, it’s a living document. It is the Supreme Court, not the NRA that has interpreted the second amendment–with majority opinions using BOTH interpretations and less deference has been given to the second than to many other provisions of the constitution. Why are the failures of law enforcement not considered in discussions of how to minimize terror?

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