Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?

What will it take for reasonable conversation about changes to our gun culture? Patch columnist Heather Borden Herve asks if the number of Newtown’s dead is finally reason to say, “Enough.”


I’m tired of the rhetoric, from all sides. I’m tired of the pro-gun statistic fight against the anti-gun statistic fight.

There comes a point where ‘this’ quote citation to defend constitutional originalism and ‘that’ quote citation to defend constitutional interpretation is basically like arms buildup. I’ll see your statistic and absolute proof that the Founding Fathers wanted us to keep our guns, and I’ll raise you my statistic and historically empirical evidence that they never could have imagined semi-automatic, rapid-firing reloading guns in the hands of citizens!

Quite honestly, I can’t decide if I’ve intentionally used that ‘arms buildup’ pun or not. Because I just don’t know what makes it through the rhetorical barrage anymore.

On each side, we find our numbers and quotes to defend our position and we’ll continue having the same argument unless we say, “Enough.”

Can we consider the possibility that a document that is almost 226 years old might need us to legitimately reconsider the context of 2013 when figuring out how to move forward? Can we consider that the unfathomable slaughter of 20 children and 6 adults in a school, a place once considered a safe haven, is a price too high to pay to ignore that?

Because while we may debate the certainty of what the framers of the Constitution really did want when it comes to the Second Amendment, what I think we can all agree on with absolute certainty is that the individuals who wrote it did respect thoughtful consideration, reasonable debate, and discussion without absolutist decree. If they were content with failure to change, we never would have had found ourselves independent of England’s rule to begin with.

The closest thing I’ve found to even begin to approach reasonable discussion about the gun rights debate is an article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg — a link to which was posted in one of the 110-plus comments of a Wilton Patch article I wrote last week about a local group that met with state legislators to talk about the issue. (I’m sure the reader who made the comment and link will be surprised that I’m citing it here, as he and I stand, by and large, on opposite sides of the debate.)

The Atlantic piece asserts that there are steps which could be taken to reduce access to guns and ammunition “for the criminially minded, for the dangerously mentally ill and for the suicidal, and that measures could be taken that sensibly restrict access to weapons and ammunition that “have no reasonable civilian purpose, and their sale could be restricted without violating the Second Amendment rights of individual gun owners.” However, he concludes, these efforts would be noble but “too late” to have any meaningful impact on the rate of gun violence.

He writes that it’s too late because of the number of guns — 280 to 300 million — in private hands in this country.

While I disagree with much of what the Atlantic writer asserts — from an emotional standpoint — I have to give the writer credit for speaking to experienced people around the country on both sides’ frontlines of the gun discussion: victims of gun violence, researchers, law enforcement officers, gun enthusiasts, and lobbyists and activists.

It’s a step toward acknowledgement of what each side believes; it concedes that each side has some ground, at the very least; and it starts to establish a foundation for how pro and con advocates might be able to stop ramming each other and start listening, if not conceding, to each other, “You’ve got a point.”

I acknowledge that I tend to come at this issue from my own, emotional perspective. Even this opinion column has to take a side, by definition, if not just by its headline. But the emotional arguments of gun-control crusaders that get belittled by the gun-rights activists are just as outsized as the fear-mongering assertions made by those same extreme gun-rightists meant to stop anti-gun advocates in their tracks.

But I suspect there are plenty of people in the middle who would like to figure out a way to move toward this rational discussion about how some changes can be made.

Haven’t we had enough of the killings to try? I guess not when some people think we don’t have enough guns, as if the solution to gun violence is more guns. Or that it’s too late to do anything about it because there are too many guns out there already, so why try anything at all?

We can keep headed the wrong way down the road, where more deaths are sure to happen, and just continue going the wrong way because we’ll eventually get to where we need to go. The world is round so all we have to do is circle the globe, we’ll get there eventually. But by then, there won’t be enough of us left on either side who say, “Enough.”

The Atlantic piece ends with Goldberg writing about gun-control advocate Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign, who asked, “’In a fundamental way, isn’t this a question about the kind of society we want to live in?’ Do we want to live in one ‘in which the answer to violence is more violence, where the answer to guns is more guns?’” Goldberg adds that in a nation with 300 million guns, it’s an irrelevant question.

That’s exactly why my initial question — “Isn’t ‘20 Children and 6 Adults’ Enough?” — needs to be seen as anything but irrelevant. It’s become the most relevant question of all.

john January 10, 2013 at 12:31 PM
With so much focus on the mis-guided attempt to "control " guns, im left wondering if you really want to stop the next tragedy or if you just want to restrict guns and gun ownership. Staying a document from 226 years ago may need an update for the 2nd 'A' is like saying the internet tv recorded audio is not protected by the 1st 'A' because they too weren't around at the following. The real focus, if your being intellectually honest should be on Mental Health Services and Facilities where you can actually do some good, and heal/treat those before they do unthinkable acts. If he had used a chainsaw would you be haulting the sale of them, you know full well it could do incredible damage if used for harm. THINK!
Anthony Scarinzi January 10, 2013 at 06:47 PM
What this emotionally-charged editorial fails to include is that very few of these horrific crimes are committed by folks legally permitted to carry firearms. Usually these evil-doers use stolen guns. Stripping law-abiding, sane and responsible citizens of the ability to protect themselves against these criminals is hardly the way to stop criminals from committing crimes with guns. The mostly-liberal media refuses to print or cover the literally tens of thousands of stories every year in which guns are successfully used for self-defense, whether they are fired or just brandished. Maybe this is more of the "quote citation" that the author referred to, but why should facts be ignored when an amendment to our Constitution seems to be at stake? Furthermore, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are extremely important documents that have helped us to become the free nation that we are today, not just old papers. This freedom is at risk in the face of an administration ready and willing to use "executive orders" to bypass the "inconvenient" checks and balances set forth by our Constitution, in order to force it's ideology upon a largely unwilling nation. The second amendment is in place to ensure that people have the right to defend themselves, against a number of different types of threats, and I am glad the Constitution is there to provide that right. It is the deranged humans behind the crimes that need to be identified and helped before they can commit these atrocities.
Yooper January 10, 2013 at 08:43 PM
So we have "chainsaw john" and "don't tamper with the Constitution" Peter using using tactics 1) to divert attention from GUN massacres and 2) pretend that the second amendment allows NO SENSIBLE restrictions. They represent a vocal minority who refuse to have any rational discussion of this issue.
Anthony Scarinzi January 10, 2013 at 09:23 PM
To the contrary, the current administration is itself showing the least willingness to entertain discussions about HUMAN massacres by threatening to make changes to our constitution via executive order. If you really had a majority that wanted to change the second amendment, Congress could go about doing it legally. But they won't, and can't, because it would never pass. This would require 2/3 of the house, 2/3 of the senate and 3/4 of the states to approve it. Checks and balances exist for a reason. Plenty of laws already exist preventing the purchase of guns by felons, and they don't seem to be helping at all. If we concentrated on the human element, and finding those people that are capable of such horrible things, we at least would be moving in the right direction.
Yooper January 11, 2013 at 09:44 PM
You use the NRA tactic of diversion and distraction. No change to the second amendment is necessary. You refuse to accept any discussion of reasonable restrictions on firearms on the basis that "they won't prevent every possible event". I have a vehicle that will easily exceed 100 miles an hour, but traffic laws restrict me from doing that. Stop signs and stop lights prevent me from driving freely as I choose. Do those sound like specious arguments? Tell me how they differ from the gun lovers' arguments?


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