That Darn Old Number Two
By John Tateishi
Published November 19, 2010
We are a nation of laws. We are governed by what is enumerated in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, and accordingly, any person who steps upon our shores is protected by the laws that emanate from those two documents. These are what distinguish America from most other nations in the world.
As I've traveled across the country speaking about the internment, about redress, about the post-9/11 madness, about civil liberties, about empowerment and civil action, my comments are normally based on issues surrounding the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. The message and the stories are powerful and compelling, primarily because they're based in these two remarkable documents.
We're all familiar with the Bill of Rights, one of the most sacred documents in this democracy of ours. The right to free speech, the freedom of religion, the right to bear arms, the right to due process, and so on.
The authors of that document had a unique understanding of human frailties and clearly understood the temptations and demands of tyranny. Every single article of the Bill of Rights is dead-on in describing those things that give any individual a true sense of freedom from tyranny or dictatorships. The document is like a look into the soul of man. Brilliant.
Except for the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.
Intended for a different time and for different circumstances, it's the one definition of a freedom that's gone totally bonkers in today's world. That particular right has reached a point of such absurdity that one wonders – or at least I do – what in the world goes on in the minds of those who insist on its necessity.
Listen to this for an example:
In 2001, the year for which I'm able to find complete stats for my purpose here, the combined populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, and Denmark approximately equaled that of the United States. In that same year, 2001, the combined number of gun-related deaths in those countries was one hundred and twelve. In the United States, thirty-two thousand.
Let me put that in more visual terms: the world 112, the U.S 32,000.
To put that in more specific perspective, in 2009, there were a total forty-two (42) gun-related deaths in Great Britain. Exact numbers aren't available for the U.S. for that same year, but estimates range between 25,000 and 30,000.
Stunning figures, both for the smallness of the number in Great Britain and the staggeringly huge number in the United States.
So what, I keep wondering, is it about America and the gun advocates that makes it such a point that we need firearms. It seems that owning a pistol is a macho thing, or it's something needed for protection, as some say.
Many psychologists interpret the desire to own guns as macho in a real sense, defining it as compensation for what some individuals subconsciously feel is a lack of manhood in other, more meaningful, ways.
It's what I sometimes refer to as the Corvette syndrome, another compensation image drummed up by shrinks, who don't limit that image to Corvettes.
To me, what's so telling is that I find it impossible to make a blanket statement that the Bill of Rights and all of its enumerated rights are perhaps the closest testament ever written on the integrity of freedoms of individual rights. It's my own hang up of course, but that darn Number Two just doesn't sit right.
Somehow, try as I might, I just can't understand how any individual could believe that it's necessary to own an assault rifle that has a rapid fire capability and is clearly intended to kill. Now that's making up for a whole lot of manhood inadequacies!
There's a reason why so many millions seek our shores. The motif of noble refuge is captured in Emma Lazarus' words, etched on the Statue of Liberty: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …."
What an amazing sense those coming to America must feel when they learn those words and understand their meaning. And what they must feel as they learn about the Bill of Rights and the kinds of freedoms and protections of their freedoms that become their right.
And to learn that they can practice any religious belief they want, or speak freely, or to live free of the madness of dictators. And to know they no longer have to look over their shoulder.
Except for that guy with an assault rifle.