Beyond Good and Evil

Dr. Ronnie J. Hastings

Guns, “Gun Control,” and School Massacres (Part The First)

The tragedy at Newtown must be responded to in the hearts and minds of everyone everywhere. Nowhere is this individual response more significant than in the nation wherein the tragedy occurred, along with so many other similar events — our own beloved USA. Emotion-driven rhetoric erupted right after Newtown, as it did immediately after the other events, always following understandable lamentations, sympathy, and empathy for the victims of the tragedies, both recent and removed. The same ones lamenting, sympathizing, and empathizing are often debating the political issues conjured by the tragedies, seemingly stripped of all accord and willingness to understand each other. Anger and estrangement always seem to begat inaction in the long run. Thus, the need for President Obama to speak the obvious — this must stop; something needs to be done. President Obama, in my opinion, is absolutely correct; we have to act to stop these senseless tragedies.

I have a six-year old granddaughter in kindergarten and a twelve-year old granddaughter in junior high. For all parents and grandparents I need say no more. To know that the place where we felt safe as students so many years ago can nowadays become a place of horror for our precious children and grandchildren is almost too distasteful to ponder. This fact alone would probably cause my liberal friends and my conservative friends (both moderate and extreme) to assume I would be in favor of ridding our society of guns altogether, or, at least support a nation-wide resolution similar to that passed in the UK following the tragic school shooting in Dunblane, Scotland — a resolution essentially banning hand guns. Such an assumption would be wrong.

Not long after Newtown, my wife recently treated me to a visit to a high school cosmetology class to get a shampoo and hair trim (as opposed to a trip to the barber shop for a haircut); as my wife points out, it is both economical and helpful to the students. While getting my shampoo, the high school student working on me was telling her colleagues and teachers about the deer she recently shot. Armed with a 270 rifle and a doe permit, she went to a huge deer lease outside Waxahachie and got her doe. On the same trip her friend shot a 10-point buck. Her plans called for having part of the carcass processed into her favorite varieties of venison. I sincerely congratulated her for getting her doe as we proceeded to my trim.

I grew up in a small town (Cisco, Texas) and on family farms and ranches outside Cisco. Those opposed to guns would call the setting of my life a “gun culture,” a term I find misleading and inaccurate. Living in a rural setting meant the need for some kind of gun(s) for varmits (raccoons and rabbits — both cottontails and jackrabbits — raiding the garden, snakes invading the barns and the house, a fox trying to make off with a chicken, squirrels making off with part of your cash crop of pecans in a good pecan year, etc.) and the taste or preference for recreational hunting (dove, quail, and duck hunting — deer and turkey had not returned to the area back when so many lived outside town; today, the deer and turkey have returned along with the other game just mentioned because the rural human population has reduced drastically). Supplementing the varmit control with guns were dogs, always great working watchdogs and varmit killers; most of our family rat-killing in barns during infestations of rats and mice was done without guns — just the dogs. On the farms and ranches, hunting was a common hobby among most men and boys and among not a few women and girls. I recall going out at night on rural roads with my dad and his friends, spotlighting game (usually jackrabbits), and shooting them. (Laws were changed so that they could not do that after a certain time.) On extended family get-togethers at Thanksgiving and Christmas on my mother’s side, before we gathered to eat, the men and we boys would go out into the pastures and shoot any game we came across. The way I grew up, there was both a need and a taste or preference for guns.

My father taught me how to shoot a 22 rifle and a 22 handgun — and shoot them safely; I did not have to do the same for my sons, as my father thought it his grandfatherly duty to teach his grandsons the same safety lessons he had taught me. My father is no longer with us, but in his honor I proudly display the several family guns I have inherited from him and from my late father-in-law. My dad’s hunting tastes evolved into coon hunting with coonhounds (mostly black and tans), wherein he did pack a handgun should the farmer on whose land he hunted wanted the raccoons killed or should a snake or two be encountered on the night hunting trail. I have chosen not to continue the family hobby of hunting (I am a poor shot shooting birds on the wing with a shotgun — “middlin'” to OK with a rifle for other targets; I’ve gone to stock tanks and shot large bullfrogs for froglegs well into my college years). So have my two sons for reasons of their own. I have so chosen not for any anti-gun reason. I support and encourage those who lease the scattered acreage outside Cisco my wife and I have inherited or bought to manage, in addition to cattle leases, hunting leases for visiting hunters on these lands. I want to expand those hunting leases to include those who would come in and shoot the wild hogs that are nowadays such a plague for landowners and leaseholders around Cisco. I shoot mostly handguns recreationally and occasionally with friends. I periodically browse gun shows with great interest.

All these facts about guns in my life might cause my liberal and conservative friends (both moderate and extreme) to assume I would be an enthusiastic supporter of the positions taken by the National Rifle Association (NRA), especially since I’ve also established I do not want to ban guns. This assumption would also be wrong.

[This issue concerning guns is “smoking gun” evidence (pardon me) why I consider myself neither liberal nor conservative; I have tried elsewhere to state my case that if you want to label me, call me a liberalist. In my case I maintain that Franklin, Jefferson, Paine, and, yes, Jesus were all liberalists.]

So, what gives here with me on this issue? Am I schitzoid? Do I have a compartmentalized brain in which I harbor contradictory stances? No, not at all; in fact, quite the contrary. I have a position not so conservative and, at the same time, not so liberal. It is a position not so much a compromise as it is a careful consideration of our history as well as of the horrific headlines concerning our school children. I ask the entire political spectrum, from extreme conservative to extreme liberal, for attention and consideration.

First consideration: Based upon my life growing up with guns, the obvious presents itself, in my opinion. During the 18th and 19th centuries, there was both a NEED and a TASTE or PREFERENCE for guns in our country. With the practical disappearance of the frontier at the beginning of the 20th century, the need for guns was reduced to the need for varmit control as pointed out above. That reduced need has today become even smaller with the urbanization of the United States, leaving guns, practically, as a personal taste or preference, like drinking alcohol, taking drugs, driving automobiles and trucks, or being sexually active. Like all these personal tastes, guns can be abused. Murders of innocent school children is an unspeakable abuse of a chosen personal taste. Just like alcoholics should not drink, addicts should not do drugs, reckless drivers should not drive, and perverts should not act upon their sexual perversions, mentally unstable and/or careless citizens should not shoot guns. Drinking alcohol, imbibing in drugs, driving on our highways, roads, and streets, and engaging in sexual activity with a partner or partners carries enomous responsibilities taken on by the person deciding to behave in any through all of these behaviors, and shooting guns is no exception. And, interestingly enough, these responsibilities include not “doubling down” on abuses, like drinking while driving, doing drugs then shooting guns, drinking before having sex, having sex while doing drugs, having sex while driving, etc. etc. “Tripling down” or “quadrupling down” borders on out-of-control, almost unthinkable “nested” abuse!

Second consideration: The NRA behaves as if we have the right to own and shoot as many guns as we want, and, moreover, behaves as if the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution makes the ownership of guns a patriotic duty. Both these notions, in my opinion, are wrongheaded, and, therefore, unconstitutional. My position reflects, again in my opinion, a correct interpretation of the Second Amendment, an interpretation in-step with the historical context in which it was written and in-step with the future envisioned by the Constitution’s framers for our grand social experiment we call the United States of America.

This brings us to quote verbatim the Second Amendment, which will be the beginning of the second part of this post (See “Guns, ‘Gun Control,’ and School Massacres (Part The Second)“). In this second part will come the spelling-out of my position.


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