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Monday, January 21, 2013

Guns and Booze- Our American right and personal responsibility

I had an epiphany of sorts the other day as I was reading some online articles and accounts of how much misery is caused by the abuse and misuse of alcohol, not just in this country, but world-wide. Addiction and substance abuse is the most equal-opportunity scourge imaginable, except of course for another terrible scourge that is just as prevalent in almost every known society- violence. So bear with me and keep your mind open as I give my thoughts on some very controversial, but important issues we face as a nation.

I promise you, whether anyone chooses to acknowledge or accept it- the fact of the matter is that alcohol has caused as many, if not more, injury and death to civilians than guns have.

Alcohol use, or overuse, has become the untouchable topic. Why? Because the vast majority of people in the country support its legality and personally use it. That fact doesn't change some alarming and disturbing facts and statistics. 

Consider the number of deaths or injury caused by alcohol-related:




Driving under the influence of alcohol

Domestic violence against adults and children

Destruction of property

Choices that ruin lives related to marriages, family relationships, financial ruin, incarceration, loss of employment

They tried banning alcohol from 1919-1933. We all know how “well” that experiment in trying to legislate a basic “right” and freedom of choice turned out. Not so much. I am not a constitutional or political science expert, so I will let Wikipedia give a simple and succinct explanation of the 18th Amendment.

The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution had ushered in a period of time known as "Prohibition", during which the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages was illegal. Passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1919 was the crowning achievement of the temperance movement, but it soon proved highly unpopular. Crime rates soared under Prohibition as gangsters, such as Chicago's Al Capone, became rich from a profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol.

The federal government was incapable of stemming the tide: enforcement of the Volstead Act proved to be a nearly impossible task and corruption was rife among law enforcement agencies. - Wikipedia

It makes one wonder if it is worth it! After all is said and done, what BENEFIT does alcohol bring to society? For most people, it is used as a means to relax, a social “lubricant” and a means to let loose. Many people are able to manage their alcohol use and won’t experience any of the negative or harmful aspects of it. 

The recent acts of killing and mass murder of innocent people with gun violence have presented us with some hard questions and no easy answers. The major problems in this debate surround the notion of giving up clearly established rights, guaranteed, once again, by the Constitution. Obviously, there is far more to it than many people realize. 

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It was adopted on December 15, 1791, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights. The Supreme Court of the United States first ruled in 2008 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms.
In 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court issued two landmark decisions officially establishing this interpretation. In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home within many longstanding prohibitions and restrictions on firearms possession listed by the Court as being consistent with the Second Amendment.
 In McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U.S. 3025 (2010), the Court ruled that the Second Amendment limits state and local governments to the same extent that it limits the federal government.

The idea of stripping the rights of law abiding, mentally stable, citizens is severe and arguably, unconstitutional; as the 18th Amendment was found to be in 1933 by the Twenty-first Amendment. The problem is when government seeks to prohibit the rights of those who have not broken the law, whether it is refusing EVERYONE the right to drink, or to own a gun. Why should someone who is a responsible citizen be deprived of their rights, whether it is to drink alcohol or own a gun, just because there are individuals among us who abuse the law? Why should a responsible citizen be penalized for what could or might happen?  
As far as rights and personal responsibility, we have decided that people have the right to buy and consume alcoholic beverages, with restrictions surrounding age and regulations related to performing certain activities while under the influence. 
We need to delve into the reasons WHY we need regulation and restrictions. Personal responsibility for one’s actions is everyone’s concern. There are expectations of how to act and behave within the norms and rules of society. Those do change, as we have seen many, many, times through our nation’s history. Societal norms do change and with them our laws have been adjusted and amended. Some will agree with those changes, others will not. But before any rights are removed or greatly modified, it is critical to be sure that we are not depriving the law-abiding and responsible citizens due to the acts and actions of those who are outside the bounds of the law.

Criminals will always do whatever they need to in order to commit crimes. Think about how many people now get DWIs a year and then think about how much less that would be if alcohol were illegal. Believe me, there still would be DWIs, but if alcohol was an illegal substance, and not as close as the local store, of course there would be would be less deaths from drunk drivers.

Using legal “things” in illegal ways or abusing the rights of others is the cause of most of the misery in the world. It is frustrating because human beings behave irrationally and selfishly and don’t always have respect for the rights, property, or personal worth of others. There is no way in the world to legislate attitudes, only actions. 

So we have to honestly decide what is the value and purpose of our laws? Are they to protect our freedoms while keeping order, or save lives and keep innocent people safe? All of the above, right? Not so easy, though. There are times when protecting freedom puts people at risk, because personal responsibility and choices are part of our freedom. At its basest point comes the realization that in a free society, people have the freedom to choose to do the wrong thing. They will have to be punished for their crime, but in the meantime, innocent people may have been killed or harmed. This happens EVERY SINGLE DAY on some level, be it as banal as someone cutting you off in traffic, or as sinister as being sexually assaulted by a co-worker.

Freedoms cause risk. You have the freedom to drive, work outside the home, and drink alcohol. Those rights are part of what makes our society what it is. Sadly, there are people within our society who chose not to adhere to those rules and laws, and they mess it up for the rest of us who are trying to live our lives in pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. You can’t change people or make them “act right” by taking away the rights of everyone. Criminals will still commit crimes, or do the wrong thing. 

Taking away rights rarely works out well. The black market or underground economy will never go away. Criminals always find work-arounds, as they did during prohibition, as they do today with illegal buying and selling of firearms. Personally, I wish for a world that had no violence, alcohol abuse and misuse, or a number of other evils. That isn't realistic or probable.
The misuse of guns, as well as booze, causes more misery and tragedy than most other things I can think of. I think most level-headed people acknowledge that there must be regulation and oversight by government for gun, as well as alcohol. Those specific details and nuances are for the American people, through their elected officials, to decide. That is how our country works and while there are always going to be those groups and individuals who are unhappy with the outcomes and decision; it is how our democracy works, and there are no easy solutions or answers. 


  1. "Swordsmanship's first achievement is the unity of man and sword. Once this unity is attained even a blade of grass can be a weapon.

    The second achievement is when the sword exists in one's heart; when absent from one's hand, one can strike an enemy at 100 paces even with bare hands.

    Swordsmanship's ultimate achievement is the absence of the sword in both hand and heart. The swordsman is at peace with the rest of the world. He vows not to kill and to bring peace to mankind."

    Many hope to achieve the ultimate achievement without bothering with understanding the first two. Equally many are those who only care to achieve the first achievement. I think I'm somewhere in between. I do own an AR-15 and a Glock, and I'll use them to protect those I love, but I would be happy if they stay in my closet unused until I die of old age. This is all academic, of course, because for someone like me, with no blood on my hands, to talk about killing, is like a virgin talking about sex.

    The problem with most gun ban advocates' approach is that they neglect human nature, and wish to act without accordance with it. The problem with most gun rights advocates' approach is that they simply wish to amplify human nature. Both approaches makes things worse. Almost no one is taking the Middle Way. Almost no one respects, and acknowledges human nature, recognize it as a real thing that cannot be fought against, and work from there, within that framework.

  2. If you pay close attention to what's being discussed, and agreed to by a majority of Americans, you will not find any language suggesting the banning of guns. What you will find is common sense regulations, such as background checks for ANY gun sale. Eliminating assault weapons that are only necessary in a war zone. Mental health evaluations, which might be helpful for purchasing alcohol too...I'll give you that.
    It is clearly not an all or nothing situation. I personally have very strong feelings about gun control that aren't necessarily in line with yours, but I'm not asking for a ban. No one is going to come ransack anyone's home and take their guns away. People really need to stop listening to the extremists and read all sides of this issue.

  3. It doesn't make sense. No-one has EVER suggested taking peoples' guns away. People are so paranoid and I'm sick and tired of all the crazy conspiracy theorists. As Barbara said, all they wanted to do was put in some background checks and prevent people from buying machine guns. But, you're winning your point anyway, obviously, when 46 US senators decided to vote against any changes.

    It appears that the rights of every person in the US to be able to buy whatever ammunition they want, regardless of their criminal history or psychological state, is far more important than the safety of our children.