A modest proposal

IMG_2171My modest proposal for revising firearms legislation and regulations seems only fair. If Congress insists that their constituents are expected to accept the presence of an armed man in a discount store, an AR-15 rifle in his shopping cart and a semi-automatic pistol in a holster on his belt, shouldn’t they accept the presence of the very same armed man in the halls of the Capitol Building?

A modest proposal on firearm legislation

As a series of horrendous shootings erupts across the United States – and as the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate resume their contentious debates about federal legislation regulating firearms – I offer a modest proposal for our elected officials to consider: Amend federal laws, District of Columbia ordinances, and Capitol Hill security procedures so that Congressmen and Senators work and live with the same risks and responsibilities that their constituents enjoy in an America where firearm ownership is everyone’s right and privilege.

Currently, U.S. Congressmen and Senators are insulated from the country’s gun culture by the implementation of these restrictive laws, ordinances, and security measures, and it is apparent that this isolation from the normal, day-to-day association with armed citizens has created for them a separate reality that affects their perception of firearm ownership and use, a situation that jeopardizes the Second Amendment. Clearly, legislators cannot make wise decisions on gun legislation if they are not players in the game.

The rest of us Americans are responsible for our own self-defense, devising and employing our own strategies and tactics for responding to encounters with citizens who are armed, or potentially armed, with guns. These self-devised defenses may include carrying a concealed handgun whenever we venture out in public, stocking our homes with easily accessible and combat-ready firearms, and wearing body armor. Or we may choose tactics based on rapid escape response or avoidance. Remember the days when we taught children to “Stop! Drop! And Roll!” in case of fire? Now we teach them to “Drop!” whenever they hear gunfire, and to “Run! Get Away!” whenever they see a person with a gun.

These defenses have had some effect. They limited the number of mass shootings in the United States in 2015 to 372 in which 475 people were killed and another 1,870 wounded according to the Mass Shooting Tracker. Plus another 13,000 people killed and 25,000 wounded in firearms assaults that were not mass shootings. Those figures do not include suicides committed with firearms. No doubt those figures could have been much worse if we citizens were not ever-vigilant.

Of course those figures could have been much lower if admittance to every public or quasi-public venue would require a visitor to pass through at least one security checkpoint, perhaps two, including a metal detector, be screened by armed guards for possession of prohibited items (weapons), and be subjected to additional restrictions for admission to certain high-risk areas, such as public schools, places of worship, governmental offices and so forth. All that would be prohibitively expensive and a violation of virtually every freedom assured us by the Constitution, but those security measures are exactly the ones that Congressmen and Senators on Capitol Hill demand for themselves.

Perhaps I am overly cynical, but this seems the height of hypocrisy.

To reach a clearer understanding of their constituents’ daily preparations and precautions for life in the current gun culture, Congressmen and Senators should dispense with these noisome and intrusive security measures and accept responsibility for their own self-defense, as do the rest of us. Currently, they are not required to assume this duty. The Capitol is heavily protected, both by the United States Capitol Police and by undisclosed security measures and personnel as determined and overseen by the Sergeant at Arms of each house.

Our legislators are well guarded from firearm violence at all times. This has not always been the case. Since an armed intruder incident in 1998 and the World Trade Center attacks of 2001, Congress (and Capitol Hill) has increasingly added security measures for the protection of government officials – themselves – while at the same time declining to regulate the ownership and use of the military-style firearms that they obviously fear.

My modest proposal for revising firearms legislation and regulations seems only fair. If Congress insists that their constituents are expected to accept the presence of an armed man in a discount store, an AR-15 rifle in his shopping cart and a semi-automatic pistol in a holster on his belt, shouldn’t they accept the presence of the very same armed man in the halls of the Capitol Building? It seems to me that going armed for his own self-defense is that man’s universal Second Amendment right, to be honored also in the nation’s highest offices of government. If he is a responsible gun owner, they have nothing to fear, and, like us, they should learn the fundamental survival skill of determining, with a single glance, whether a random person armed with deadly weapons is a responsible gun owner who means us no harm.

I am optimistic this proposal will be supported by people on all sides of the gun regulation debate. Those who believe that carrying firearms in public venues should be prohibited by law can hope that Congressmen and Senators will embrace similar opinions when armed citizens are permitted free entry to their legislative chambers, foyers, and office buildings. Those who believe that the best defense against an armed assailant is to arm yourself at all times can hope that unguarded Congressmen and Senators will support their philosophy and loosen firearm regulations so that every single person in the Capitol Building can carry a gun and thereby be safe.

Let’s see how that plays out. There is some risk in the political outcome of this proposal, of course, as there is for all of us on the streets of America in the era of the gun culture. We can only hope that our legislators can see the issues with a clearer eye when they have to assume the responsibility of their own safety against gun violence. As we do.

I do not presume to tell legislators what action to take. We citizens have the right to devise our own defenses, and so should they. A concealed carry weapon on the floor of the Senate would be needed at a minimum, I would think. Body armor might be wise, too, although it would look lumpy and unattractive during televised sessions or news program interviews.

But this is trivial stuff. The grand concept is at the core of this proposal. I am certain that our Congressional leaders want no special rights or protections for themselves that they would not grant to their constituents. Having exposed us to the everyday risk of firearm violence, they will surely assume the same level of risk themselves and be personally responsible for their own safety and security against the threat of a mass shooting incident.

Won’t they?


About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer; indifferent wing shot. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Novelist and short story writer. Freeholder: 50-acre farm with 130-year-old log house. Husband, father, grandfather. Retired teacher, coach, mentor. Vicious editor. Blogger.
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