Law and Order (and the vigil)

New York Times
Our political leaders need to reinstitute the assault weapons ban that lapsed in 2004.  This might really be possible, in the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, especially if gun control advocates sell the idea in the right way. When President Clinton signed the assault weapons ban in 1994, he was something new and different--a "law and order" Democrat.  In addition to signing the assault weapons ban, he also took other crime prevention measures, like increasing the size of the police force in major cities. I think Democrats today ought to take note.  We want the assault weapons ban not because we're against personal rights and liberties, but because we're for law and order.  Say what you're for folks.  Don't stress what you're against, stress what you're for.

But as to the costs -- I do think the NRA has gotten away with a whole lot of bullshit about rights and liberties.  The second amendment, unfortunately, is right there after the first amendment. That makes it easy to suppose that the right to bear arms is something like the right to assemble or worship or speak out: i.e it's a virtually absolute right, outweighed by other considerations in very few instances.  But no, the right to bear arms is subject to far more restrictions than rights of conscience. We obviously don't get to arm our "militias" (what militias?!) by keeping rocket grenade launchers in our backyards or nuclear weapons in our driveways. I can't buy myself a cannon and point it toward my neighbor across the creek (who does have too many loud parties).  Why not? Because my right to have such weapons is trumped by the community's need for "law and order".  (Let's use that phrase as often as possible!  It's really good...)

The assault weapons owner, even if perfectly law-biding, cannot perfectly control who uses the weapons. Nancy Lanza, who was murdered by her son with her own weapons, put her whole community at risk by having them in her possession. Her right to have these weapons, whether she wanted them for self-defense or recreation, should have been balanced against the security needs of the community.  Not because her rights don't matter at all, but because law and order takes priority.  We Democrats need to make that our rallying cry--LAW AND ORDER!-- instead of spending too much time laughing at and decrying gun nuts.


The Newtown vigil last night got me thinking about religion and its alternatives.  I don't fault anyone for approaching grief in any way that "works" for them. This isn't the time to ask whether there are really ... angels, and the like.  If I were suffering the devastation of the Newtown families, I could be believing in angels right now too. Or ... or maybe not.  It seems unfortunate that no one got up at the vigil and spoke words of comfort in a secular key.  I'm just about sure some of the bereaved were unable to connect with all the religious talk, as "inter-faith" as it was. I meet people all the time, and not just in philosophy settings, who don't think about life in those terms.

As an alternative to the Jew, Methodist, Catholic, Muslim, and Bahai who spoke, what comes to mind is ... what?  An atheist?  A God-denier?  That's not helpful. There's no more reason to ask a God-denier to comfort the bereaved than to ask a Jesus-denier or an angel-denier.  We need people to get up and talk about loss in terms of what they do believe, not in terms of what they don't believe. The naturalistic alternative is ... what?  Not atheistm, but (I suppose) secular humanism. Perhaps we non-believers should be doing more to make that positive outlook a part of the national landscape, and thus part of an occasion like this. I say that not in a "we have rights too!" spirit, but only because, in all honesty, I think secular language is needed to meet the needs of some grievers. 

1 comment:

Wayne said...

We lost 28 people in Newtown. 20 children full of potential and life, and 8 people who dedicated their lives to fostering that potential into actuality, and gave their lives to protect so many others. Our grief is representative of our love for them, and the entire nation grieves. Let's find strength in one another, in this time of great loss.