The 99th Monkey

One man's spiritual quest—and his continuous and utter failure to find the answers.

Living With the Gun

The right to bare arms?

lj rey
By Guest Blogger: lj rey

"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."

When I was a young man I had a Winchester hanging over my bedroom door. I thought the right to bare arms had something to do with Marilyn Monroe in a sleeveless dress. Guns were the building blocks of manhood. I had absolute faith in the gospel of the gun. But an age of anxiety was looming when we would come to fear even the water we drink.

 As a child I fashioned sticks into the shape of guns until Santa left a Red Rider BB gun (with no warning that it might shoot my eye out). Next, when I was ten, I got the real thing: a powder-blasting, hand-me-down .22 single shot. And at 12, with my parents' blessing, I bought with my own money a 12-gauge Browning double barrel. At 19 I bought a Ruger Single Six for fast draw competition. Later as an adult I traded for a Marlin 30:30 lever-action that I never fired because it had "a killing range of five miles." Up the hierarchy of guns I went until I landed in the Army where a gun is never a gun but a weapon. And what was the difference between a gun and a weapon? Weapons are made to kill, I learned, and we, with obsolete M-l weapons from the last war, were killing machines. We charged the make-believe enemy to the blood-curdling cry: "To Kill. To Kill."

As a kid I was fast on the draw and a straight shooter. I learned my skills from Roy Rogers, Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Matt Dillon. They could shoot a gun out of a bad man's hand with a draw so quick it couldn't be captured on film. What I didn't learn from these Hollywood cowboys I later learned under the critical eye of my drill sergeant.

"Don't be a jerk-off, Reynolds. Squeeze it. Sque-e-e-e-ze it."

 "I mean the trigger, you jerk-off."

Dale Evans was a sharpshooter too but she never counted for much. She was a girl...a woman...a lady. It was she I was shooting for—to protect and defend her honor with my blazing guns.

Nowadays, I'm still a gun owner. But my guns—the single shot .22. and the six-shooter, the only two I've kept all these years—are hidden away. Though I haven't fired either of them in a quarter century they feel as natural to my grip as a handshake from an old friend. I don't feel any fear of shooting my eye out or committing suicide because a gun is in my hands. I do occasionally dream of holding a burglar at bay until the police arrive. But the only ammo I have is an old .22 short swimming in a jar of pennies on my dresser. It's a clumsy fantasy that involves fishing the shell out of the pennies and slipping into the garage where the guns are hidden in a locked cabinet, finding the key to the cabinet and arming myself in the cold garage in my bare feet.

I only have one shot. What if I miss? What if the bullet's too old or is flawed and explodes the breech? Or what if it's not a burglar but a lover coming on cat's paws to surprise and delight me?

With a burst like gunfire the alarm goes off and saves me from this dream of exercising my Second Amendment right.

But this dream has raised some fundamental questions:

What are "arms"?

There is no distinction in the Second Amendment between a boot pistol and an intercontinental ballistic missile. How did we lose our right to have a backyard ICBM? Lets get on with it—let's arm the people with real weapons.

Who are "the people"?

Is the author of the Second Amendment talking about all the people? Or just the chosen few that considered themselves to be "all" in 1791? If all the people had had the right to bear arms in 1841, then Nat Turner might have been the 11th president and white folks might be still hiding in a hole in the ground.

What is a "free state"?

Are we talking about a government entity or a state of mind?

What is "security"?

What makes us feel safe? Strapping on my six-shooter tightens my security blanket for a moment but when I consider the threat of tons of space ice streaking past our planet, I feel about as secure as a cow flop on a tractor wheel the second time around.

What of natural security—defending ourselves against nature—all those animals constantly stalking us? Don't we have a right to defend ourselves with AK-47s or, better yet, heat-seeking wolf missiles?

What is a "well-regulated militia"?

In George Washington's time it was a ragtag ménage of friends and neighbors watching each other's backs. They trusted each other. But what about now? Would you hand out guns to your neighbors across the hall—the ones with the spooky kid who dresses like a zombie and flashes your children pornographic videos from his iPad?

Who regulates the "well-regulated militia"?

If a well-regulated militia comes banging at the door at 2 a.m., how many of the people will answer the door and how many will run for the gun closet?

And where does the hierarchy of arms stop?

In 1843 the Secretary of State, a man named Upshur, was sure he'd found a cure for war: a cannon so big it would bring an army to its knees. He mounted it on a ship he named the Peacemaker and sailed out on the peaceful Potomac in order to demonstrate its peacemaking potential. He had it loaded with powder. A crowd of dignitaries sailed with him. They filled the deck. It was a lovely day. The water calm. The breeze gentle. He gave the order to fire and the Peacemaker exploded into splinters, killing most of the dignitaries on board.

The Peacemaker proved once again that peace is only a lull between wars. It is not a steady state. War on the other hand is the closest thing we have to a sure bet. Can we the people afford a pusillanimous generation refusing to arm themselves to defend our land?

What is "our land"?

A glance at history would suggest that our land is often someone else's land that was taken from them by folks with superior arms. Don't these people then have a right to take their land back the same as we the people have a duty to defend it as being ours?

Our arms today are the stuff of fantasy: A drone driven by a kid at a PlayStation in the privacy of his parent's family room can take revenge on children crawling like ants on the playground of his monitor. One click of the mouse will cure his bullied psyche. Can we deny this kid the right to defend himself even if his is a preemptive strike on bullies-to-be?

Is our little planet a safe place to live? It is not. It began with a bang and will end with a bang. But tomorrow, alas, is another day.


lj rey, aka, Lawrence Reynolds, lives in the past in the mythical village of Phoebe, Virginia where he imagines he writes award-winning short stories. ljrey@comcast.net

 

Eliezer Sobel is an author, musician, and retreat leader.

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