Press-Republican

Columns

March 24, 2013

Where to draw the lines

I try to not be cynical, as difficult as that is at times.

One response to the Newtown shooting tragedy is to hire up to 200,000 armed guards for every school in the country. Another is to arm teachers, presumably with semi-automatic rifles, if they are to effectively counter a madman bent on destruction. Aren’t these suggestions a bit bizarre?

Another suggestion is to ban violent video games, movies and art. This issue is complicated because it pits one constitutional amendment against another.

The first preserves the right to free speech. It was designed to encourage debate and discourage oppression. It was followed with the second amendment, designed to ensure a new country could defend itself against a larger opposing force. There, our founders stated:

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.

Our region certainly appreciated the challenges of a free state. The Battle of Plattsburgh preserved a fledgling nation that had threats from the British Empire. A young country certainly had to be armed to preserve our borders — then.

Does this well-armed militia need to preserve security from within rather than without? If so, let’s have that discussion. I will be the first to participate.

But, if we believe that, in our imperfect democracy, we must limit the first to expand the second amendment, we must have an open discussion of the relationship between two sometimes competing rights. The first promotes freedom of ideas and expression. I don’t believe that means cowardly anonymity, but I do believe in free expression, which might permit people to partake in violent video games and videos, as repulsive as they might be.

Advocates of the second amendment now ask us to trash the first. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association claims we ought to arm all schools and ban violent video games and movies.

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