Guns and How We Got Here

History:

As a physician and political liberal I personally will not be satisfied until guns and all the instruments of violence disappear.  The following are observations, notes and opinions of the history of the Second Amendment, the price in lives and ruined lives of our access to lavish numbers and diversity of firearms. Finally calling on  my knowledge and experience as a psychiatrist the problem of profiling potential danger to others or self.

An accident of discovery while researching my family history I became engaged in an exploration of the Second Amendment and the context in which it was enacted. As well I will look at the roots of the intense attachment to personal firearms by so many Americans today. The theories are mine based on my interpretations.

Most of the early settlements of North America were commercial enterprises and defense and security provided by local private and community “militias.”  With  Colonization this was the tradition.  In other words local militias were a well established tradition by the time of the formation of the US government.  Also there was little of a standing military at the beginning which added to the reliance on local security.  I have until recently assumed this is what was being referred to in the Second Amendment.

But why in the world have a full amendment, second of the “Bill of Rights?”   The answer in my  view has to be political to please a certain constituency.  I have come to the conclusion that indeed the original intent was to endow the citizens with the tools to usurp a government considered oppressive. Though there are a number of abusive practices of governments listed in list of grievances in the Declaration of Independence, taxation being a revolution producing issue.

Another factor at the founding is the Kentucky long rifle and the frontiersmen who wielded them. It was the revolutionaries’ weapon of mass destruction and out performing anything the Brits had 4-5:1 A mythology developed around it like that around the Spitfires of WWII That it was also a provider of food it also had served to make possible the invasion of Native American lands.  The Appalachians were the frontier and following the War of Revolution became settlements for veterans. Georgia’s mountain counties first European settlers were veterans of the war.   Tgey I think were the political constituents though of course the slave owners were invested in being able to have the tools to suppress slave resistance.  They were constantly paranoid in fear of slave revolts.

In doing my own family history I have been able to glean a lot of sense of the times by reading contemporaneous accounts  from our family letters and other writing. There is also a lot of material online. One of the greatest are county histories done in 1876 in commemoration of the Founding.  One su, Grant County, Kentucky  describes the love affair of the people with their rifles.(Here is the link to it. http://www.nkyviews.com/grant/text/grant_cent_history_text.html  Scroll down to “Hunting etc.” There is also a great contemporaneous diary of observations of the “character of the America people.” By Fannie Trollope in the earliest 1800.  Along the Ohio River and into the mountains you the rhetoric and I think character is virtually identical with our Tea Party folks.

So there you have it dep roots and deep passion and not a lot of trickling in of 20th, much less 21st Century perspectives.  Any No. Ga. Candidate has to I now realize and honor the roots and history before proceeding to persuade for the change in gun laws. And now is not the time to try to  seek repeal of the 2nd Amendment as even this liberal- is on the way to finding a long rifle to deal with this destructive government.

The price of virtually unlimited access to personal firearms.

We all know the price and the numbers and pictures and testimonials keep coming. I am among the many who have witnessed the faces of children blown away by accident and the lifetime emotional impact of survivors of the suicide or murder of family. We can’t avoid noting it but using it as a hammer to change minds hasn’t and won’t be enough. If anything it is desensitizing to reasoning generally.

As a psychiatrist I can testify to the fact the even the slightest of limitation of acces will save many lives. And some of my patiets told me so.  So often the killing is on impulse.  I always insisted that if they owned guns they be locked away for example in the trunk of the car.   I have had people change their mind about suicide while looking for the key to the gun locker or trunk. Just that little makes a difference.  I personally as a pacifist would never own a gun or use one even in self defense but I do understand those who feel the need.  What I can’t see is needed are these rapid fire weapons with huge magazines.  Surely no home invasion short of a national army requires more the large magazines?

There is also the issue of arming our police with weapons not intended to stop a crime but to kill with a few of these awful bullets designed for the military.  If the public does not have easy access to the rapid fire killing machines the police don’t need to have them.

Don’t get distracted by trying to profile and isolate potential killers.

As a psychiatrist I say without equivocation say it can’t be done with any accuracy. We must try of course but it will  only miss many who will and safeguards to protect civil liberties must be strict.    Being mentally ill per se does not predispose to violence.  There can be some indicators sufficient to treat, even coerce into treatment but that ultimately is a legal and not a psychiatric determination and must be rare and minimal.  It is a road the NRA and the GOP would like for us to follow because it arouses such interest.  It is always easy to look back and interpret clues but not easy to understand there meaning in the here and now.

That said, as with all other health care that available for mental illness is sadly lacking and increasing quality and availability to services will I have no doubt at the macro level save lives.  It is my own observation of history however that addressing the anxiety and desperation of  poverty will save more lives.

It has been observed that people do things because they can.  If a gun is close at hand you can be sure someone will sooner or later do something bad with it.

 

W. Lorraine Watkins – June 9, 2019