Last week the United States Senate, led by the Teapublican minority, turned in yet another Profile in Cowardice by refusing to pass a diluted, milquetoast, largely symbolic gun control measure. The key element of the defeated bill was background checks. Who could be against that? The question bears consideration. The answer is simple – and it is complicated.
Since the recent gun fueled slaughters in Tucson, Aurora and Newtown, along with the daily firearms carnage that spills blood throughout this country, most Americans have come to expect that there will be another massacre – the only question being when and where? One would think that the fact that over 30,000 Americans die due to gun violence every year would make gun control something of a priority. Certainly the fact that the United States has the highest rate of gun violence of any developed nation is an embarrassment and a tragedy.
Nevertheless, gun control measures have been repeatedly opposed, diluted and defeated by the so-called defenders of “the right to bear arms”. Aside from the fact that there are serious differences of opinion and perspective when it comes to the Second Amendment it is clear from all of the writings of the framers of the Constitution and subsequent judicial decisions that none of the rights in the Constitution are absolute.
For example, the First Amendment to the Constitution proclaims freedom of speech. But it is quite clear that even with that freedom no one has the constitutionally protected right to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater or to advocate the violent overthrow of the government or to publish child pornography. The right to freedom of speech is conditional.
The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits unlawful searches and seizures by the government. But agents of the government can obtain a warrant and search your home, your bank accounts and your internet records. Indeed, if there is a perception of imminent danger agents of the government can seize you and search your person on the street without a warrant. Just ask the proponents of New York City’s odious Stop and Frisk policy. The right to freedom from searches and seizures is conditional.
One wonders how the advocates of the Second Amendment have transformed the right to bear arms into some absolute right. One would think that reasonable measures that control the possession and use of firearms only makes sense in a civilized society. That is why the nonsensical notion that any government involvement in the ownership and possession of firearms is heretical is just that – nonsense.
The fact is that most of the loudest advocates of absolute gun rights are also on the far right conservative side when it comes to restricting the rights of free speech for people with whom they don’t agree, peaceful assembly of people whose causes they don’t like, freedom from illegal search and seizure for people whose politics they don’t like and a woman’s right to have an abortion. These selective absolutists don’t even bother to defend the inconsistency and hypocrisy of their position. And they will shoot anyone who believes otherwise.
Recent polls tell us that 90% of all Americans are in favor of some kind of background check prior to gun purchases. Yet the United States Senate could not find 60% of its members willing to support such a basic measure that could only help to protect all Americans.
The search for the reason for this disconnect begins with a search for the money. Tremendous sums of money are funneled into the National Rifle Association and into the political war chests of American legislators by representatives of the gun lobby. The gun lobby’s position is quite clear – any restriction or control on the sale of guns could lead to a loss of sales and profits. In the world of weapons manufacturers – sales and profits outweigh human life every single time.
The American system of capitalism has created the highest material standard of living of any country in the history of this planet. Free enterprise has resulted in railroads and the Hula Hoop, and it has all led to many forms of progress. But unconditional free enterprise can result in murderous and cannibalistic strains of capitalism where the damage and destruction of society is acceptable if it serves the false gods of sales and profit.
The hypocrisy of gun rights advocates who would restrict constitutional rights except when it comes to guns is shameful. The willingness of the gun lobby to sacrifice your life, and that of your family, in the cause of sales and profits is unspeakable.