Art Callaham: Conn. tragedy stirs debate about rights

December 22, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

I was going to write a nice Christmas wish list from many of my friends (and a couple of enemies); however, the events in Newtown, Conn., last week cannot pass without some comment. I will promise a positive upbeat column for next Sunday.

Before the right-wingers fire up the Mail Call telephone lines and the local bloggers begin to spit their usual gun rights or anti-gun rights venom, let me just clear the air. You, as an American, have the Constitutional right to “bear and keep arms;” however, you and I, as Americans, do not have the right to terrorize a town and kill innocent human beings. 

Don’t bring your “one-trick pony” to the debate. If you’re going to respond to this column with the same old “you can’t take away my Second Amendment rights” drivel used for more than 200 years by apologists to partially justify many murders using guns, then stay out of the discussion. Conversely, if you believe that “guns kill” and that argument justifies overzealous control of firearms, then you can also stay out of the discussion.

My friends, we need to center the debate on controlling the behavior of human beings, not just on guns or any other instrument used to commit murder. Guns don’t kill any more than box cutters; but humans do, and more often than we as a society can endure.

Face it. As human beings, we are members of the “animal kingdom.” Seriously, are humans animals? The answer is yes-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s.

Scientists describe virtually everything that is “alive” as animal or plant. So, if you’re not a plant, then you are an animal. In fact, you are a specific kind of animal called a mammal. Know what all mammals have in common? Your mothers have breast milk that can feed young; you have hair or fur; and you are born live instead of inside an egg or case. In fact, human mammals are born not only alive, but kicking and screaming.

One other differentiation within the animal kingdom: Humans might be the only animal that kills for reasons other than food or survival of the species. That, among other differences, places us on a higher level within the animal kingdom.  

When you read this column, there will be hundreds of theories about why a 20-year-old male smashed his way into an elementary school and started killing 6- and 7-year-old children. Each of those theories will come with 10 different solutions. Those solutions will range from destroying all firearms up to and including incarcerating anyone who acts irrationally or looks different.

The dollar sign will not be overlooked as anyone from T-shirt “stencilers” to some manufacturers will see profitability potential in this horrific act. And state, local and even the federal government will throw money at this incident in an effort to buy our way out of this and future evil doings.

Yes, evil visited Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, and you nor I have any idea how to stop those hideous visitations in the future.

“This is bigger than just about guns,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va. and a life member of the NRA) said. “It’s about how we treat people with mental illness, how we intervene, how we get them the care they need, how we protect our schools. It’s just so sad.”

Manchin, who had been hunting with his family when the Newtown shootings occurred, said gun rights advocates have been concerned about, “taking guns away and people not allowed to have them. That’s not what this should be about. Millions and millions of people are proud gun owners and they do it responsibly and by the law.”

Manchin and Obama are right. There is more to this than gun rights, individual rights, mental health, privacy, school security and any number of ancillary issues. It’s time all parties sit together and solve this problem, not argue about it. I challenge our state and nation to put together groups to brainstorm the issue of “protecting our children;” no, “protecting our citizenry” from ourselves. The time is now.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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