The end of 2012 comes with important discussions on where we are, how far we’ve come and how we got here. The topics of the day involve gun control and the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The decisions being made by the United States government at this very moment are some of the most important in decades. With a dangerous division in our country, the gun control issue will take mature, honest dialogue to solve.
Moving toward a solution in any disagreement takes compromise and humility. Change in any situation is sometimes painful and fraught with fear and resentment. Yet as with any great shift in society or culture the birth of the new begins with the death of the old. That death is many times accompanied by violent opposition during the last gasping breath of control. So it is with the gun control issue as well as what it means to be free.
The 2nd Amendment states: “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.” In 2008, District of Columbia vs. Heller, the court ruled that the amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in the militia, and the lawful use of the firearm for protection such as defense of one’s home. With that in place, and the changes in laws regulating the type of firearm possession allowed, we have reached a point of 9 guns in civilian hands for every 10 people in our country. Statistics do not necessarily show a rise in gun deaths, but other factors such as mental health issues are playing a role in the type and number of incidents of mass killings.
When we are considering changes to our country’s budget, we should weigh heavily the consequences of cuts to funding for mental health treatment. The combination of more gun accessibility and less health care accessibility is a lethal one. We are walking through the fire right now. The change in consciousness over our “rights” and what is good for the whole is an important one. It is one that will be studied in the future and one for which our generation will be judged closely.