It’s sad that a nation famous for forging ahead, defying the odds, and finding solutions to problems is defeated. But some of the loudest voices insist that’s the case. Each time there is a new mass shooting, anguished cries for some effort to be made to control the gun saturation of the country are met with the familiar insistence that it can’t be done, you just can’t get there from here.
The loud voices insist that now is not the time to talk about this. I intend to talk about it now. I’ll just chat briefly about some of the things that have been said many times before by those whose knee-jerk reaction to any suggestion of gun control is to shout “No.” Some of their positions puzzle me.
Absolutely no need to consider any new laws, say the naysayers. We just need to enforce the laws already on the books. I would like to know which existing laws regarding sensible control of guns and limiting undue access to guns are not being enforced and why they are not. I wonder if those so vociferous in their assertions that this is the real problem have bombarded their political representatives with demands that the laws be enforced.
We are assured that the real basis for our guarantee of the freedom to bear arms is so we can protect ourselves against our own government. I don’t deny that government can become oppressive; we see it happening practically every day. And it happens without force of arms. But should my own government decide to attack me with actual weapons, I somehow doubt that my own puny collection would stand up against tanks, machine guns, artillery, and aircraft. If the founding fathers really had this in mind, I feel sure their vision of how this might take place has long since become hilariously obsolete.
In case you don’t buy the “protect us from our government” reason for everybody being fully armed, the anti-control folks also offer the “protect us from an invading army” reason. A favorite and persuasive story to make us all want to grab our rifles and get ready is the famous Yamamoto statement. The story goes that Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, head of the Japanese Navy and architect of the battles of Pearl Harbor and Midway, who was trained at Harvard and experienced as military attache’ in the United States, used his special knowledge to convince Emperor Hirohito not to contemplate invading the U.S. Yamamoto said there would be an American with a rifle behind every blade of grass, so an invasion could not succeed.
A great story. Unfortunately, for those who love it, fake. Scholars over the years have been unable to find any indication that the Admiral ever said it. I’m glad of that, because I admire Yamamoto as one of the brightest and most rational of the Japanese war leaders, and the statement attributed to him is a really stupid one. A military juggernaut that had rolled across much of the Pacific, using planes, tanks, artillery, and insanely persistent ground forces, afraid to invade because of civilians armed with personal weapons? The real reason, even if such an invasion was ever considered, was that the invader would have had to fight across 3,000 miles of a very big country, and for what? The Japanese wanted to control the Pacific, and if they could overwhelm us there, that was sufficient for their purposes.
One of the most tempting suggestions of the anti-control folks is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It seems so obvious, but how do you do it? Perhaps the government could plunder through everybody’s medical records. Or require all doctors to report every patient identified with clinical depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental disability of any degree. This would guarantee that scads of perfectly trustworthy citizens would be denied their own right to bear arms, but you and I would keep ours. Unless Uncle Sam finds out that you and I secretly are subject to mild attacks of anxiety. It would also play hob with our right to privacy, but by George, the Second Amendment would remain unaffected.
Even if I thought these, or other suggestions of ways to take action without really taking action were feasible, I wouldn’t support them. That’s because I can’t trust the word of you anti-control folks. After all, for eight years you told me Obama was coming to take my guns.
Robert B. Simpson, a 28-year Infantry veteran who retired as a colonel at Fort Benning, is the author of “Through the Dark Waters: Searching for Hope and Courage.”