Every one of them was ten or younger. Every one of them had the right to grow up into adulthood, fall in love, play violin, become oncologists, and live life to the fullest. Twenty children were shot dead in a Connecticut elementary school on December 14, 2012 because one man possessed what nobody in a civilized society should possess: A gun. Mentally unstable individuals in America have access to the gun and use it against defenseless civilians at an alarming rate: The Columbine shooting, the Cupertino spree, and now the Connecticut tragedy. If we fail to act now, similar tragedies will repeat.
A section of Americans take pride in flaunting their guns. The NRA is their obscenely loud advocate. It has deep pockets and has enough politicians in those pockets. It invokes two arguments as justification for the ownership of guns: the Second Amendment of the US constitution and self-defense.
The Second Amendment allows citizens to raise militia and overthrow the government in the event the government goes rogue. It is a relic of a bygone, and a not so civilized, era when invading Europeans committed genocide of Native Americans and when a smoking gun signaled justice. It is as anachronistic as it is uncivilized today. Even hypothetically assuming that the government goes rogue, no citizen militia can militarily over throw the government. The government has nuclear missiles, fighter planes, and howitzers. Unless a militia possesses these, it stands no chance against the government. So, civilians owning guns will not prevent our government from going rogue.
We have the police to defend us from criminals. Usually, the American police system is efficient and responds within a few minutes. Reinforce the police system if necessary. One does not need guns for self-defense.
So, both justifications provided for gun ownership are absurd. Gun ownership put the lives of innocent people such as the twenty Connecticut children at risk. The real reason that some Americans unabashedly advocate gun ownership is that they are violent. America has not yet had the civilizing effects of noble ideas such as ahimsa (the principle of non-violence articulated in Indian religions such as Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism) on any sustainable basis. As a result, violence is still ingrained in the American meme. Ownership of guns is a proud advertisement of this violent memetic tendency. Civilized people need not recognize gun ownership as a sacred right.
Ideally, gun-ownership should be banned. However, considering that a numerically significant section of Americans is still beyond the realm of reason – they believe that virgins become pregnant or that crucified dead convicts resurrect three days post-mortem – an outright ban would not be an imminent reality. However, a set of reasonable measures should be adopted to make gun ownership very difficult. There is precedence for this: numerous bills such as the short-lived 1994 ban on assault weapons have been passed in the past to limit the Second Amendment. I recommend the following criteria to approve someone’s application for license to own guns:
- A medical certificate that the applicant is mentally stable and has no anger-management issues. A similar certificate should also be produced for every member of the family since they could have access to the gun.
- A mandatory insurance coverage to provide extensive and ample compensation for all victims of any unforeseen tragedy.
- A No Objection Certificate from every colleague, neighbor and the neighborhood schools and businesses since they are put at risk when someone in the community owns a gun. After all, such objections are invariably sought in the context of zoning laws in residential areas when new businesses come in. Use this criterion for gun ownership too.
- Most attacks such as the Connecticut slaying are carried out by individuals who are products of unstable family or work environment. The Connecticut shooter’s parents divorced and the Cupertino shooter perceived his work environment to be hostile. The license to own guns should be terminated if the family experiences life events such as divorce or lay off. Life events are invariably used in actuarial sciences to determine one’s insurance premium. Use this criterion for gun ownership too.
- A secure storage and transport of guns used for the uncivilized activity of hunting wildlife. Hunting rifles cannot be kept in residential homes and must be stored in certified safe houses. They cannot be transported by cars or hand-carried and, instead, must be shipped by secure courier services.
The US constitution was man-made. There is no need to worship it. Constitution is there to guide our pursuit of happiness and we should amend it when it infringes upon our happiness. Nobody can deny that the Second Amendment paved the way for the infringement of the right of the slain Connecticut children to live. The right of children to live is more sacred than the rights of the NRA and the gun-rights cartel to extinguish it.
Kalavai Venkat is a Silicon Valley-based writer, an atheist, and a practicing orthodox Hindu.