The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 22, 2012

History doesn't support gun control as answer to deaths

The Back Porch column

By Nerissa Young


The national news media want gun control legislation.

Consider the previous sentence a moment. The national news media — not Congress — want gun control legislation. Congress has been avoiding just such legislation for a generation.

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien verbally accosted one of her guests last Saturday morning — a guest she referred to as a friend — because the woman wouldn’t join her call demanding gun control legislation after last week’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

For the one person who doesn’t use a gun responsibly, there are hundreds, even thousands, who do. So the answer is to take guns from the thousands because of the one. That is counter to the Constitution and not just the Second Amendment.

Children in America are killed every day through neglect and physical and sexual abuse by family members. They are eating themselves to death because parents can’t say no to sweets and high-fat diets.

Is the answer to forcibly neuter ingrates so they can’t be parents to children they will likely abuse or to revoke parental rights of those who feed their children junk food?

Well, no, because that would infringe on the most basic of freedoms. Defending oneself is a most basic freedom.

Well, gee, Nerissa, don’t you care that all those children were killed? Yes, I do. I just spent the past 3 1/2 months with 200 young people in a college classroom. There were another 200 for whom I was their academic adviser. I feared one was going to harm herself when she showed up in my office late one afternoon with a look of desperation on her face, unable to see past her circumstances.

One of my students died in the Shepherd University shootings.

America has been a paradox from its founding. The Constitution walks a most fine line between balancing the rights of the many against the rights of the few or the one. The Bill of Rights protects the rights of the one while the rest of the Constitution provides for the general welfare of the many.

Consider the context of the Bill of Rights. Anyone deemed a threat to the throne could have his or her house invaded and occupied by the British army. Soldiers took what they wanted, including the homeowners’ weapons that could be used against them.

The basis of the Second Amendment was to allow arming of private residents to protect their homes and property from invaders. It also provided for a citizen army. That was the function of the Minutemen although they predated the U.S. Constitution.

Passing gun control legislation to stop gun deaths is like trying to put out a forest fire by urinating on it. To really accomplish gun control, the government would have to take every gun from every law-abiding citizen. Then, only the outlaws and the government would have weapons. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference between those groups.

How successful has mass weapon collection been? Look at the Civil War. When the South surrendered, Confederates were required to stack their arms and sign an oath that they’d never take up guns against the Union again. That didn’t last very long because Southerners got guns and some used them to unabashedly oppress and kill black people for another 100 years.

Well, the U.S. government wouldn’t turn its guns on its own people. In the Battle of Blair Mountain during West Virginia’s mine wars, the U.S. government called out the military. President Harding was about 2 seconds away from ordering Gen. Billy Mitchell to bomb striking miners with war planes.

In Arab Spring countries, citizens have revolted against dictators and tyrants, but they can’t seal the deal because they don’t have weapons to fight the armies sent by the tyrants and dictators.

Knee-jerk legislation rarely serves the Constitution or the people. The Patriot Act didn’t do one thing for law enforcement than what was already available within the Constitution. The one tangible is it forced the CIA, FBI and other federal and state agencies to share information, something they should have been doing anyway save for turf wars. While some information is being shared, the CIA and FBI are by no means sitting around a table, holding hands and singing “Kumbaya.”

Instead, the Patriot Act allowed for warrantless searches, sneak and peek surveillance and even compiling records on what patrons at local libraries are reading. Multiple special investigations — internal and external — show law enforcement agencies have repeatedly violated people’s constitutional rights with impunity.

The national news media need to shut their yaps. And Congress needs to get the country off the fiscal cliff, not put it on a civil rights cliff.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© 2012 by Nerissa Young