The second amendment to the Constitution, as contained in the Bill of Rights, is a simple, one-sentence statement that reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Most constitutional historians, many admittedly not lawyers, have argued that the wording of the amendment does not guarantee a gun in every home. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the most eloquent among this group pinned the right to bear arms directly to the introductory clause, “A well regulated militia,” and argued that subsequent events in American history erode the force of this amendment. Specifically, that the failure of the militia system during the War of 1812 led the United States to the decision that the Founding Fathers were wrong and that the United States needed a standing army. Following that war, the United States never again relied on militias for national defense.
NRA advocates, when wrapping this amendment about their shoulders, f1ags appropriately and prominently displayed in the background, always omit that introductory clause, “A well regulated militia.” Indeed many NRA members I have talked with aren’t aware of the exact reading of the Second Amendment. In a discussion with one such member, I tried to argue Schlesinger’s point and advocated some control on
guns to the point that some classes of armament, AK-47-style assault rif1es, for example, be banned and that gun ownership be licensed. This resulted in the usual tired arguments about the Second Amendment as well as the unsubstantiated claim that gun registration was just one step away from a total ban on guns. Oh, not to mention that criminals wouldn’t bother to register their guns, so why force the average citizen to do so; sort of like arguing that because there are unlicensed people driving on our highways, it shouldn’t be necessary to license any driver. Being short 0n vocabulary, NRA advocates hear “ban” when you say “license.” Hence, the other individual in the discussion countered, “well, if you ban guns (I said license), people will just use something else, like a knife, or an axe, or a chair.” A knife ( a’ la Lorena Bobbit) or an axe (remember Lizzie Borden) are credible but no substitute to the individual who prefers the impersonal distance a gun provides when attacking someone else. But a chair? Suddenly, snippets of the evening news began to run through my head, as news readers described the latest violent crimes.
“This just in from the Channel 9 Crisis du Jour Center, two people were killed and another seriously injured in a drive-by chairing on 16th Street this afternoon. Police noted that a lawn chair was used in the commission of this crime. In other news, two masked men, armed with a sectional, robbed a downtown bank this morning and got away with an undetermined amount of cash.”
I mused out loud, if a folding chair could be classed as a concealed weapon, would a Lazy-Boy qualify as an assault weapon. Would the use of chairs in the commission of crimes, “out of the car, I’ve got a Barkalounger and I’m not afraid to use it,” lead to congressional hearings on the subject and initiatives to ban chair ownership altogether “if they want my chair, they will have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.” It gives new meaning to the phrase “give ’em the chair.” Were there, I wondered, any statistics on the use of chairs in the commission of crimes. Even so, I had to admit that chairs as weapons used to play a prominent part in B Movie westerns, all of which had a barroom brawl which prominently featured men attacking one another with chairs; chairs which spectacularly exploded when they came down on the head of some unfortunate. The ease with which these chairs broke, coupled with the fact that the man usually remained standing after the attack, testify to the fragility of these early chairs while underlining the progress that has been made in chair technology over the years. It is doubtful that anyone attacked with a chair in a similar manner in this day and age would remain standing, let alone remain alive.
“You’re just being stupid,” I was told,” I just meant that if someone wanted to kill someone, he could use something else if a gun weren’t available.” Possible. There are the isolated knife attacks (remember Lorena) and even axes (Lizzy Borden again) have been used on occasion. I was also reminded that a serial killer in the late 1930s, Robert Nixon, used a brick to kill his victims. That would appear to be an aberation and I see no trend among the criminal clement to begin carrying bricks instead of guns. It remains a fact that a gun remains the weapon of choice. Any other method of attack is more personal and requires close proximity TO the victim. That close proximity could work to the disadvantage of the attacker. Some, like a brick or an axe or a knife are, for the more fastidious, just plain messy. Guns are more impersonal, cleaner, and allow lethality over a longer range. I have yet to read of a sniper using a knife.
“This just in, a sniper on the roof of the midtown Atlas building has killed 4 people and injured several others over a two-block area. The assailant is said to be using a semi-automatic knife.”
Sorry, that just slipped out.
Our record of gun-related violence is abysmal and is something we should all be ashamed of. It is doubtful that this will change anytime soon. Now that chairs have been added to the equation, I will give a wide berth to anyone I see carrying a chair. And I hope that, in the future, like-minded parents will discourage their children from playing musical chairs.