Mark O'Mara: America appears to have settled its gun debate
He says inflexible owners must view school shooting as collateral of "right" to bear arms
He says we don't further restrict drinking because of DWI. Have we made that deal on guns?
O'Mara: Face it: Restricting guns won't hurt Constitution, cause anarchy; it will protect us
Editor’s Note: Mark O’Mara is a CNN legal analyst. He is a criminal defense attorney who frequently writes and speaks about issues related to race, guns and self-defense in the context of the American criminal justice system. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Gun debate? What gun debate? Americans seem to have this settled.
Yes, we witnessed on our TV screens this week yet another parade of children being evacuated from their school — this time in Oregon – their arms held high to show they were not armed as they fled a 15-year-old shooter who police said took the life of their 14-year-old classmate.
But Americans, ever more desensitized to the school/mall/navy yard attacks that come, weekly, into their lives, don’t seem to want to talk about a gun problem. Americans remain pleased for the general population – even 15-year-old kids – to have nearly unfettered access to all manner of firearms, including assault rifles. Even the President seems to have acquiesced. A tweet from @WhiteHouse: “‘If public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.’ – President Obama on legislation to prevent gun violence.”
What this means is that we’ve accepted school shootings and other random mass shootings as a normal part of life in America, no matter how they affect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that was first announced in the Declaration of Independence, some 13 years before our oft-quoted Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
I guess that’s not surprising: We accept collateral damage for other privileges we enjoy. We tolerate a certain number of drunk driving deaths, more than 10,000 in 2012, and there’s little public outcry for greater restrictions. We’ve been willing to sacrifice nearly 7,000 soldiers (and tens of thousands wounded) in two wars to maintain our political influence in the Middle East. About 400 children drown each year in pools and spas, but we’re not scrambling to outlaw summer fun.
Why should guns be any different? In the United States only about 10 people out of every 100,000 are killed by guns, or a little more than 30,000 per year (As a reference, we lost about 60,000 soldiers in the Vietnam War).
This is clearly an acceptable sacrifice to make to maintain our sacred, un-infringed right to bear arms, no?
After all, I’ve been told by some gun-rights advocates that reasonable restrictions on gun ownership will undoubtedly send us down a slippery slope to the abolition of all guns in America. And if we didn’t have unfettered access to guns, think about what would happen: We would be overrun by a foreign power; our government would assume totalitarian control and burn the Constitution; and criminal gangs, the only people left with guns, would run roughshod over all law-abiding citizens.
If you suggest, as I have, that we should place reasonable restrictions on guns, then you are clearly a delusional or ignorant pacifist who has been dropped on his head. What part of “shall not be infringed” don’t you understand? they ask. (For the record, I’m a responsible gun owner.)
I’m confident that in the next few weeks there will be another school shooting. I’m confident because there have been 74 shootings on or around schools or colleges in the year and a half since the Sandy Hook massacre. That’s averaging one a week.
I’ll repeat: We have a gun problem in this country.
Reasonable restrictions on guns will not lead to totalitarianism and anarchy. Suffering 30,000 gun deaths annually is not a reasonable sacrifice to make in order to blindly maintain our unrestricted gun culture, particularly when the rallying cry is an outdated reference concerning infringement which, known to anyone who has actually studied the Constitution and our founding fathers who drafted it, was a reference to the then-existing reality that young men, when called upon to defend the state and the laws of the state, were expected to provide their own arms.
Listen, reasonable restrictions are necessary to assure the continued viability of our Second Amendment rights, and to curb the unnecessary bloodshed caused by the proliferation of guns into hands of irresponsible people who care little about constitutional rights, and less about the sanctity of life. Like that of a boy in Oregon, who was shot dead.