Nation's gun cancer spreads
By Patrick Walsh
After graduating from college, I served four years as an infantry officer in the Army's 25th Infantry Division. I fired everything from 9mm pistols to .50-caliber machine guns, routinely qualifying as "expert" with an M16A2 rifle.
It's not despite such experience, but precisely because of it, that I think the availability of guns in America is stunningly negligent public policy. And it may get worse.
One needn't be a constitutional law scholar to discern the Founding Fathers' intent in the Second Amendment. The original draft presented to the first session of the first Congress read: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person." (The emphasis is mine.)
Clearly, the framers placed the right to bear arms within the context of organized military service. They wished to highlight the distinction between state militias and the federal army. They viewed state militias as a check against the misuse of the army to impose centralized tyranny.
Even the treacherous, 27-word version of the amendment with which we contend today retains and begins with the phrase, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state ..."
Scientists talk about gene "expression" when referring to how the inherited instructions of our DNA are converted into working proteins in our bodies - an interpretive process. With interpretation can come error, and serious errors in gene expression can lead to diseases such as cancer.
America has a cancer originating in the misinterpretation of our government's DNA, the Constitution. In 2008, the Supreme Court handed down an erroneous interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller, striking down a handgun ban in Washington and endorsing the misconception that individuals have a right to own firearms. Now, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the court could compound the error by striking down a Chicago gun ban, extending the principle beyond the District of Columbia.
The old gun lobby claim "guns don't kill people" is specious. No one rails against the manufacture of axes or baseball bats; there are no campaigns to ban Bowie knives.
With a bolt-action rifle and a telescopic sight, I could put a bullet through my neighbor from a hundred yards away as he crosses his living room. With a Glock 17 pistol stashed in my briefcase, I could enter a boardroom, coolly dispatch a dozen executives, and still have five rounds left to deal with the security guards.
To put it another way, Virginia Tech doesn't happen if Seung-Hui Cho is brandishing a sword. Columbine doesn't happen if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are wielding Louisville Sluggers. Charles Whitman doesn't kill 14 people at the University of Texas at Austin if he takes up his sniping position armed with a longbow.
Take it from a former soldier: A gun's power is arbitrary and wildly disproportionate to its price, size, and ease of use. Before the advent of firearms, becoming dangerous meant years of training, if not membership in a warrior caste. Cho simply used a credit card to pay $571 for a Glock 19 and 50 bullets.
A Glock 19 weighs less than a quart of milk; it measures under 7 inches long. Its operation is simple: load, point, shoot 15 times, reload. In one span of nine minutes, Cho killed 30 people and wounded dozens more.
I once carried a rifle in defense of the Constitution. Now I wield a pen and must trust the adage about its superiority. But I admit to feeling outgunned by madmen like Cho and the Supreme Court justices who think more guns are the answer.
Patrick Walsh is a writer who lives in Princeton. He served as a rifle platoon leader, battalion adjutant, and company executive officer in the Fifth Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment.