I am currently working on an autobiographical collection of short stories entitled “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up”, meant as an addition to the two novels that I have already had published. The title of this collection is instructive because, as I peruse the news stories on any given day, I see stories that go so far beyond the borders of credible fiction that I am certain that my literary agent would seriously threaten to remove me from her roster of authors.
We all know that truth is stranger than fiction, but America is becoming a stranger to the truth as the great issues of the day become the subject of something other than debate. We rarely see an exchange of ideas or the consideration of varying points of view in the public discourse. We are subject to statements of what is right and what is wrong as if most of life is susceptible to such objective judgment.
Of course, there is such a thing as right and wrong. It is wrong to kill. It is wrong to steal. It is wrong to lie. But what if a lie would save a loved one from the pain of knowing of some great wrong? What if stealing otherwise unaffordable medication would save your daughter’s life? What if you killed someone who was trying to kill you? In this set of hypothetical questions right and wrong might share the same space depending upon your perspective.
And while the left wing of the left wing is not without fault when it comes to ignoring facts and living in fantasy worlds rife with conspiracy, counter conspiracy and prestidigitation, the right wing of the right wing has retired the Olympic medal for marathon mindlessness when it comes to guns. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution is taken literally – every American has the right to have a gun – much as the Second Commandment. In point of fact historians and legal scholars have presented credible arguments that the 2nd Amendment refers to the establishment of state militias and never encompassed the (frankly) bizarre notion that every adult man and woman is entitled to own machine guns, rocket launchers and automatic pistols that could stop a brontosaurus as a matter of right.
And even if the National Rifle Association’s interpretation of the Second Amendment was correct and that it did invest Americans with the right to own guns, how can it be that this right is uncontrolled? We cannot drive a car anywhere at any speed. We cannot build any kind of structure on property just because we own that property. There are rules and laws and regulations controlling how we treat our children, our spouses, our pets and our farm animals. There are regulations regarding the consumption of alcohol and the dispensing of life saving drugs. So what is so sacrosanct about guns?
And then, of course there are facts, the bloody facts —Virginia Tech, Columbine, Waco, Ruby Ridge, University of Texas Bell Tower, the Beltway Sniper — these names convey iconic images of the random and wholesale slaughter of innocent human beings. These slaughters were perpetrated through the use of guns. Guns that are freely available at every gun “show” and on too many street corners. Need more facts?
Nearly half the civilian gun deaths in all the developed countries in the world are in the United States. The United States ranks 4th in the world in firearm related death rates, right on the heels of Mexico. We should note in passing that the United States Department of State regularly issues travel warnings to American tourists going to Mexico. Who will provide the travel warning to Americans in America?
As a resident of New York hardly a day goes by without my seeing a news report of a shooting death or serious injury somewhere in the five boroughs. These guns are not owned by hunters or sportsmen or gun aficionados. They are owned by people who want to kill and hurt other people. And consider the fact that New York is considered one of the safest big cities in the United States.
And in the face of the facts and the blood and the corpses, we hear the right wing of the right wing braying the battle cry for unlimited gun ownership. Sarah Palin jokes about her wedding shower being in a shooting range while somewhere a mother is grieving over the untimely death of her son, shot by someone else’s son. Glenn Beck, channeling Savonarola, almost foams at the mouth railing against “Marxists” who would take away the holy right to own an AK-47 or to carry a Walther PPK into a bar or a sawed-off shotgun into an airport while 150 students are being shot in the public schools of Chicago during this school year. And all the while the body count continues.
And as the braying and the jesting and the foaming continues and runs amok through the news channels of this country, the countering voice is silent or muted at best. One wonders what new outrage, what spectacular massacre, what new wave of gun-related terror will be enough for common sense to make itself known. Whether it is a Saturday Night Special or a top of the line assault rifle or a “lady-like” derringer, there is a need for controls just so that the American body count does not continue to rise to astronomical levels.
I am casting my support in favor of common sense.
Wallace Ford is the Principal of Fordworks Associates, a New York-based management consulting firm and is the author of two novels, The Pride and What You Sow.