Bearing Arms

When I was about ten years old, a long time ago now, my father gave me some needed advice to deal with bullies at school.  The ones who could outrun me.

“Don’t run away,” he said.  “That’s what they want, and they’ll keep coming after you.  It’ll never stop.”

I asked what I should do, instead.  “Hit them,” he said without hesitation.

When I pointed out that such a response might result in a worse beating than usual, he said, “Maybe.  But if you land one good punch, right in the schnozz, for example, they’ll think twice the next time.  Bullies don’t like to get hurt.”


I honestly don’t know if that was wise counsel or not.  But I remember ending up in a few fights for awhile afterwards, often enough that my mother spoke to my father about his advice.  For her, fighting was never the answer.  Talking through a problem was always the preferable option.

I’ve been an adult for quite a long time since then.  And there have been occasions through the years when I felt put upon unfairly by someone—not physically, perhaps, but in a bullying manner.  And I’ve wondered what would have happened at those times if I had continued to follow my father’s advice.

Don’t like somebody’s behaviour?  Hit him!

I suspect I might have been charged with assault, my only defense being that I was following a strategy that was, perhaps, legitimate once upon a time—but no longer.

It reminds me of the tragic situations I read about too often, it seems, in the great republic to the south of us, the Land of the Free, the Home of the Brave.

In 1791, more than 225 years ago, the American government adopted an amendment to their constitution, which had been ratified two years earlier.  That amendment bestowed upon every citizen the right to keep and bear arms.  The arms in question in the eighteenth century, of course, bore little resemblance to the guns available today—some of which constitute weapons of mass destruction, by any reasonable definition.


As recently as last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled:  …the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding; and further, that its protection is not limited to …only those weapons useful in warfare.

According to the New York Times, more Americans “…have died from guns in the United States since 1968 than on battlefields of all the wars in American history.”

Data from the National Vital Statistics System of the U. S. Centers for Disease Control, through 2015, show that—

  • on average, there are 12,000 gun homicides every year in the U.S.;
  • seven children are killed with guns in the U.S. on an average day;
  • America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average of other nations.

A list of firearm fatalities in the U.S. since 1999 yields more than 440,000 killed, including the awful massacres of school children in Columbine, Colorado in 1999, and in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

And this past week, of course, the lives of fifty-eight innocent souls were snuffed out in Las Vegas, Nevada by a deranged killer with an arsenal of military-grade, automatic weapons at his disposal.  All legally purchased.

As has been noted many times elsewhere, shocked politicians offer their thoughts and prayers every time to the grieving families.  Far fewer of them, however, think to call for an end to the madness.  Apparently, the slaughter of American children has become something that can be tolerated in the name of preserving the sanctity of the Second Amendment.


That provision may have been acceptable, even advisable, when it was ratified those many years ago.  Today, however, a nation’s fawning adherence to it strikes me as being even less wise than a decision on my part to follow my father’s long-ago advice into adulthood.

When—if ever, I wonder—will that gloriously-blessed, yet grievously-afflicted nation grow up?