On Caps and Locks

I go to the drug store for a bottle of aspirin. Turns out it has a safety cap on it that makes it difficult to open. Why? To prevent children from getting at it who might mistake it for candy and overdose. What the hell, I exclaim, no normal kid is going to chew an aspirin and mistake it for candy, and anyhow, most kids will have less trouble opening this damn cap than I do! Yes, might come the answer, but a study has shown that these caps might save 1.3 children’s lives a year, and that might be your kid and how would you feel, and isn’t anything that saves kids’ lives worth it? Etc, etc..

If I want to go to a gun store and buy a hand gun, no problem, at least in many parts of this freedom-loving USofA. After all, guns don’t kill people, people kill people. And without a right to buy a nice cozy new automatic pistol, an aroused citizenry will have no defence against the jack-booted troops of the faceless bureaucracy whose leaders we elected a couple of years ago. Our constitution will be shredded, our whole way of life will lie in ruins!

Well, ok, if you feel that strongly about it….But say, if we can put safety caps on aspirin bottles, how about safety locks on pistols? So at least the kids who rummage around in daddy’s desk drawer and come across his gun and start playing with it won’t come to grief? Never! comes back the snarling reply, this is just the thin edge of the wedge, the camel’s nose under the tent, etc. etc….

But there are a lot more kids who die from gun accidents than ever knock themselves off inadvertently from overdosing on aspirin, aren’t there? Parents should be more careful, comes the snarling reply. Well, how about those disturbed kids who tote guns to school and knock off classmates? If they didn’t have guns the worst that might happen might be somebody would get a black eye. If we are so solicitous about our kids in this society of ours, wouldn’t it make sense to try to control their access to guns more strictly?

Mr. Tom DeLay, majority whip in the US Congress, one of the most prestigious and powerful leadership positions in our society, has the answer. His op-ed piece in the March 27, 2000 Washington Post, places the blame for the recent spate of school shootings on the refusal of a wrong-headed establishment to permit traditional religious instruction to occupy what he considers its rightful place in public education. He dismisses the gun issue in one sentence: “The President…concluded that adding to the existing 20,000 existing firearms laws–which he so often chooses not to enforce– would somehow serve to prevent future killings.”

Mr. De Lay and his friends in the gun lobby show enormous respect for the constitutional provision for the right to bear arms. Would that they showed comparable respect for the constitutional requirement for the separation of church and state.

Foreigners observing the local scene might justifiably consider our society to be howlingly, hilariously inconsistent. They might take it a little farther and judge us to be certifiably nuts.

CSC 3/30/00

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