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What About the 2nd Amendment?


What About the 2nd Amendment?

by Tish Levee

Part 2 of a series on gun violence.

By Tish Levee

Last month I wrote about my personal relationship to two people killed in recent mass shootings, the easy availability of guns being an issue we need to deal with as much as we deal with mental health issues, and what I believe the framers of the Constitution meant by the 2nd Amendment. In the letters section you will find a letter from a reader about that last part and my response.

This month I want to write about what I believe to be responsible gun ownership, based on my experience, and that of others. I grew up in a home with guns; both of my parents were hunters. They had shotguns and rifles but not any kind of an assault weapon, which in the 40’s would probably have been a machine gun. As any hunter knows, if you use a weapon like that to hunt, you might as well forget about being able to eat what you hunt—or for that matter of fact having anything resembling a deer, a pheasant, a duck, an elk, or whatever left. All an assault weapon will leave you is a shredded carcass—no meat, no hide, nothing usable at all.

My parents hunted to put meat on the table—during World War II’s rationing this was really important and made a big difference in our diet. While hunting is a sport, for them it wasn’t just that. They hunted nothing unless we were going to eat it.

 They also believed strongly in gun safety. All their guns were kept in an old army munitions locker, and the ammunition was locked up separately. We never had a loaded gun in the house. Some might say, “…but what about self-defense?” Well, if you really must have a gun for that self-defense, it needs to be accessible, but not too accessible. Witness the number of shootings where a child, even a toddler, found an unsecured gun and used it—in 2015 more than 2/3 of accidental shootings—265—involved minors, resulting in 83 deaths, and by the middle of this January there were at least five child shooting. For detailed information on all of these preventable shootings go to

From a very early age we learned about gun safety. The first rule was to presume that any gun was loaded, the second not to point a gun at anyone or anything unless my intention was to kill it, because that was the purpose of guns. Perhaps if a man in Arizona had learned these rules, he wouldn’t have recently tried to wake a sleeping friend by pointing a gun at him and pulling the trigger. (Just one of the crazy shooting incidents so far this year.)

When I was five, I picked up my mother’s US Army Norwich 1864 muzzle-loader (with a broken flintlock) and pointed it at someone. I was immediately scolded;  when I protested that not only was the rifle unloaded, but it was broken and could not fire, I was told it didn’t matter. “Never point a gun at anyone unless you intend to kill them,” my mother said. This carried forward even to toy guns, and I got in trouble at eight for pointing a toy gun at someone. A little over the top, you might think, but I did know what a gun was for and I knew how to safely handle one. 

One obvious way to reduce gun violence is to require comprehensive gun education before users can purchase a weapon.  Automobiles are also lethal weapons, but we don’t let someone just jump in a car and drive off, without any training, or passing a test, and being licensed. The NRA actually offers many courses in gun handling and safety, including online ones, but I never hear about them any more, the way I once did.

But as important as gun handling and safety education is, it is even more important that we make sure that guns don’t come into the possession of people who shouldn’t have them. This is why we need laws requiring background checks and other ways to lower gun violence while preserving the 2nd Amendment. That is what I will address next month.

© Tish Levee, 2016


Kids & Guns

Last month, in the interest of illustrating and substantiating her concern about gun safety & kids, Tish Levee [”But what about the 2nd Amendment?”] recalled having been scolded, at the age of eight, for pointing a toy gun at somebody. And it occurred to me that the anecdote wasn’t really about guns.  It was about kids.  Discussions about kids & guns are never truly about guns, except in the most perfunctory and surface sense of the matter; they are always, at bottom, about kids. Or should be (in my anything-but-humble opinion). I’ll get back to this in a moment, but first, I need to note a common error of terminology which appears early in that March column.

Tish made an oblique reference to an “assault weapon, which in the 40’s would probably have been a machine gun.” This was followed shortly by the assertion that use of “an assault weapon [for hunting] will leave you...a shredded carcass --- no meat, no hide, nothing usable at all.” These are, with all due respect, the kinds of misstatements which have caused untold confusion in the ongoing national debate over firearms.

The expression, “assault RIFLE,” is a standard term-of-art long in common usage throughout the firearms industry. It has always referred explicitly to a gun which has the option to be used in full-automatic mode.

 This is to say, it can be deployed such that by the shooter’s holding down its trigger, it will continue to fire one round after another, in rapid succession, until the trigger is released or the magazine is empty. In other words, this is INDEED a true machine gun (by another name)—and if used in full-auto mode it most assuredly WILL convert the body of any hunted game into a “shredded carcass.” (Civilian possession of a machine gun in this country has required registration since 1934, and subsequent legislation banned the registration of new machine guns altogether, thus rendering full-auto firearms, effectively, illegal in America.)

However, it was NOT an assault rifle to which Tish had alluded, but an “assault WEAPON”—which is not the same thing. “Assault weapon” is a locution typical NOT to the firearms industry but only to the legislation industry, and arises to public consciousness whenever a public official (or office-seeker) proposes to garner electoral support from devotees of the ersatz religion of Leftism.

An assault weapon, in actuality, can be any weapon to which a legislator chooses (and for whatever the reason, stated or covert) to attach such a name inasmuch as any weapon can be used in an assault. As it happens, most modern firearms, both civilian and military, are what is called “semi-automatic.” What this means is that they fire one single round (and one round ONLY) each-&-every time the trigger is pulled, without the weapon having to be separately cocked by hand each time; they are, thus, not machine guns and should not be confused with them, despite the easy misunderstanding attendant to language like “semi-automatic.” But enough of the digression; back to this matter of kids and guns. 

What IS a kid?—A kid is, among other things, a very young person, of limited experience, whose imagination & curiosity play a special role in the development of his identity and in the maintenance of his sanity along his journey to maturity. Therefore any move toward stifling or, indeed, truncating that imagination, or any external attempt at suppressing his curiosity—even in the interest of protecting him/her—cannot help but risk searing or crippling his consciousness. (It’s not a far-fetched proposition; the world is full of the walking wounded.) I suggest that there is a better way of protecting his life. But first things first—I return to the original question: What is a child? Somehow, in the press of life, most adults manage to forget what it means to be a child.

A child is not only a young person. He is also a little person living in a world in which all the levers, dials, knobs, wheels, keyboards, ratchets, and pushbuttons of social and physical control are manned, owned, operated, and maintained by BIG persons.

A child’s very existence is one long series of frustrations: learning to walk, to talk—trauma all the way. His very acquisition of bladder & bowel control, for heaven’s sake, is ordered and demanded by the adults in his life—and when that control is acquired, it is a milestone for him, celebrated by those adults. Learning to tie his shoes is a project all unto itself.

Adults decide when he has to go to bed. Adults mandate how he is to behave at the dinner table.  Adults force him to spend his daytime hours with strangers at a place called school, and adults decide what he is to do there.  Adults insist that his things are not really his, but have to be “shared”—even with strangers.  He’s required to keep his hands clean in order to bar (are you ready for this?) “invisible microbes” from wreaking havoc with him (yeah, right)—yet without mastering the use of a stool or some such boost to his height, he can’t even reach the kitchen or bathroom sink to wash those sticky little digits.

And it will be many years before his arms & legs will be long enough to reach the controls of the family car—let alone, be strong enough to manipulate them.

Everything about a kid’s life is regulated by these big folk, for whom the universe was rather obviously custom made. And even when he occasionally glimpses (or senses) the wisdom of that reality, it still isn’t thereby rendered any-the-less frustrating for him. 

I’ve spent a moment setting this forth, because, as it happens, the matter has a very significant bearing on a child’s attitude toward firearms (unless he has already had concrete experience of them).  And I’ll tell you why it has such a bearing. When you and I contemplate guns, we think about injury, searing pain, severe disability, enduring distress, intense suffering—death—inconsolable anguish.

Do you really believe that’s how a child thinks about guns?—Hell, NO, you don’t. 

For a kid, guns represent something altogether different.  For a kid, guns represent the instrumentality of control over the direction of his existence, over his destiny—control, indeed, over the problems and restrictions of life. And given where a kid is coming from, that is some powerful medicine; the appeal is inescapably powerful—I daresay, irresistable.

So, when a kid contemplates firearms, he conjures a mental image of a faceless character (which could therefore easily be himself) pointing this instrumentdirecting this magical tool—at some obstacle or challenge to the satisfaction of his deepest desire.  The simplest, briefest motion of nothing more than his finger, and presently there is a loud noise—not too loud: not loud enough to shock, just loud enough to assert—and instantly that obstacle, whatever it was, falls away. Presto. 

Blood? Pain? Anguish? Heartache?  Hardly.  Indeed, not at all.  He inhabits a completely different world.  And that’s the crux of the matter, not the guns but the two different worlds:  his world, our world.  Both valid.

Our job, I would submit—while protecting and preserving his world for him, for as long as possible—is to also introduce him, directly and materially, and early on, to the reality of firearms in our worldin a controlled atmosphere and in a controlled manner—such that he comes to appreciate experientially, viz., comes to appreciate for himself (even while he is still relating to fantasy), the overwhelming power & potential of guns.

This in turn will inevitably cause him thereafter to find himself mentally contrasting his personal fantasy with the concrete realityso that when he returns—as return he must, again & again, and yet again—to that fantasy world, he will become increasingly hesitant to include any longer within that imaginary existence the magical imagery that he had formerly associated with firearms when he didn’t personally know what they objectively were. What I’m saying is that rather than try externally to suppress his curiosity, we serve him better by providing him/her with the reality ALONGSIDE—rather than in place of—his fantasies. It will be he himself who sorts out the one from the other—and not another soul on the face of the planet could possibly be as well qualified.

This is what I call inoculation.  “Vaccination,” if you like.  A smidgen of the real article—a weakened strain, as it were—delivered in a safe environment, and in a manner as to implant within the young patient a suitable dose of antibodies; a proper investment against the ravages that can so easily wreak havoc on a naturally inquisitive mind reeling from the frustrations of preadolescent existence.

Pursuant to that, I think that if my children were young, then at the first sign of any of them evincing an interest in guns, I’d take him/her to the firing range, and let the young explorer, from a proper distance, watch me practicing for a while. It’s been some time since I last visited the range, so I don’t know what kinds of rules they adhere to these days. But if given my “druthers,” once the child had seen me practicing, I’d ask him if he wanted to fire a few rounds himself. If the answer came back in the affirmative, as in all likelihood it would, I’d stand immediately behind him at the firing line and place the firearm in his hands—all-the-while keeping my OWN hands over and around HIS—and face the target with him. But first I’d remove the sound protectors from his ears.

Nor would I let the weapon out of my hands at any time that he was in contact with it. Together we’d squeeze off those rounds. He would feel the disturbing power of the recoil; he would hear the loudness of the report (especially in the absence of the sound protectors)—and he would KNOW instantly that he was dealing with something altogether different from what he’d seen on the vidiot box.

My dollar-to-your-donut says that this is all it would take to revise his understanding of what guns are about. At that point “The Rules” for how to treat such instruments would make eminent sense to that young consciousness. For the next ten years or more, he’d be quite content (indeed grateful, I suspect) to leave the firearms to the grownups—his curiosity sated, his imagination intact, and his dear and blessed life, by the grace of a merciful God, safe.

Michael Zebulon

Rohnert Park