Opinion

BIDLACK: We all agree on gun control

Author: Hal Bidlack - February 20, 2018 - Updated: February 20, 2018

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Hal Bidlack
Hal Bidlack

Yes, we do. Americans by and large accept the need for some gun control. No reasonable person supports the right of their odd neighbor down the street to have a tactical nuclear weapon. No reasonable person thinks a 10-year-old should be able to buy a flame thrower. No reasonable person thinks anyone should have a private anthrax cannon. We agree on gun control!

The only issue, my friends, is where we draw the line, here in Colorado and as a nation.

Our ongoing school shooting drama was horrifically renewed in Parkland, Florida, and within hours we saw both sides of the gun debate leap into social media and the news asserting that either it was finally time to have a real discussion about guns or whether it was “too soon” and insensitive to the families to discuss it now. There is even argument over how many school shootings we have seen so far this year. By one count, we’ve seen eighteen school shootings since Jan 1. Other news reports declare that to be an overstatement, falsely including events involving guns where no shots were fired, or examples where shots were fired, but after school hours. The correct number, the critics argue, is “only” six when you only include events that involve shooting and wounding or killing of people on campus during school hours.

Only six.

Let’s think about that for a moment. We are a bit over 6 weeks into the new year. By the most conservative estimate, we’ve only seen a school shooting about one each week. How can we possibly be complacent even if it is “only” once per week? Can you imagine the demand for action if there were ISIS terror attacks killing kids every week?

If you lived in Colorado during April of 1999, you were very likely touched by the horror that took place in Columbine High School. I was teaching at the Air Force Academy, and I’d honchoed a department trip to a Rockies game the night of April 19th. The next day, I realized how closely I had driven to Columbine High on my trip into Denver. We were horrified as a nation, and the call of “never again” was often heard.

…(T)he Founders never had to worry about bump stocks … The Founders never saw their children running from an evil person spraying high velocity rounds at a rate of dozens of bullets per minute.

Now, I come to this issue as a multiple gun owner and former military cop. I like my guns, and, as a student of the Founding Period, I also know that the arguments for the 2nd Amendment were in part about having an armed militia. The supposed “anti-gun” folks often argue that part of the 2nd Amendment, and they are right. But a study of history also shows the Founders intended an armed citizenry because they wanted the citizens to be able to take down any government that subverted their fundamental rights.

But let’s think about the implications of that idea for a moment. In 1787, the standard issue weapon was a Brown Bess musket. I have a working replica of that gun myself. An armed citizenry, able to bring down a tyrannical government in 1787, meant citizens having a lot of muskets. A really good shooter could shoot a musket ball ever 20 seconds or so. It takes me a full minute.

Fast forward to today. Some Americans, often those on the farther right, think the Founder’s intent should always be honored. And, on broad subjects, I agree – voting, freedom of speech, etc. But we do not continue to be bound, as a nation, by the 18th century thinking of the Founders when it comes to, say, slavery. Or the rights and role of women. We don’t use the medical knowledge of 1787 – we rarely bleed people to let the bad humors out – nor are we bound by the construction knowledge of that long-ago time when we build skyscrapers.

But on guns lots of people think the words of the Founders are sacrosanct. But the Founders never had to worry about bump stocks (remember those? After Las Vegas, everyone agreed to ban them, but we haven’t yet.). The Founders never saw their children running from an evil person spraying high velocity rounds at a rate of dozens of bullets per minute.

We agree on the concept of limits, we just disagree on what those limits are. For the good of the nation, we need to at least be willing to discuss it. If we continue to see a school shooting each week, there will never be a time that isn’t “too soon.” But for all too many, it will be too late.

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack

Hal Bidlack is a retired professor of political science and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who taught more than 17 years at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.