Guns in church. Guns in schools. Guns in bars. Guns virtually everywhere.
You may not see them because they’re concealed, hidden in pocket holsters or under clothing, but you should assume that they’re everywhere. Anyone anywhere at any time may be equipped to shoot when they wish.
This is the regime now existing in the state of Georgia. A dream of gun lovers comes closer to reality.
A Georgia pastor can still bar guns from his or her church, but that prohibition must be made explicit. Without signs to that effect, the law makes the church open to any person who wears a loaded gun as an article of clothing. Gun worship is presumed and protected as universal; worship of the Prince of Peace must carve out exceptional space.
Law enforcement leaders in Georgia opposed the “guns everywhere” law. Of course. It sits as a no-confidence vote in them while making their job harder and more dangerous.
The argument for such gun freedom has two legs, both weak. One, more guns in more hands means the person with violent intent will fear acting because a deadly deterrent could strike him or her down anywhere. Second, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that every citizen assumed to be law-abiding has a right to carry arms for self-defense.
The first argument assumes life in a wilderness of threat and fear rather than trust and common purpose. Laws such as that adopted in Georgia have nothing to do with the use of guns for sport and hunting. They are all about a certain view of life itself; a view where the God of the Gospel is absent. Fear rules.
The argument from the Constitution is primarily a gun lover’s fantasy with a late assist by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a new book released last week, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” retired justice John Paul Stevens says the Court made a wrong turn in recent years interpreting the Second Amendment. The addition of a simple phrase is needed to make clear the original intent of that amendment.
For Stevens, who served on the Supreme Court for 35 years, the Constitution should say: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”
Addition of the italicized words emphasize that the Second Amendment was adopted, as Stevens says, “to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were ‘well regulated.’” We forget too easily after more than 220 years that the context for the Constitution included a struggle to maintain some state powers as a new national regime came into existence.
Throughout our history, until the National Rifle Association was taken over by zealots for gun “rights,” the Second Amendment was understood in the way Stevens describes. By the 1990s the NRA had lobbied so hard for an individual “right” to carry guns that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger called its campaign the biggest “fraud” he had ever seen.
Now we are seeing in Georgia the extent to which that fraud can undermine and corrupt the bonds of trust needed for a healthy human society. This is the deeper danger posed by today’s gun lobby — along with the running tragedy of roughly 88 gun-related deaths every day in this gun-saturated country.