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The Right to Bear Arms

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Due to the recent shootings of innocent people in Tucson and the shootings of two boys in Redlands, the “2nd Amendment” of the constitution has been on my mind about our sane and insane “right to bear arms”.

I grew up in the south where every household had some kind of gun and boys were expected to know how to use them for hunting for food and protecting the home. One thing boys could count on was Santa bringing a cap pistol or Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. There were no restrictions on keeping a gun under lock and key or unloaded if not in use. As a matter of fact most people would say to you why have guns if it is not loaded and ready to use. In the cities however, you could not find guns in every home because most people did not have to hunt for their own food.

Another weapon that was available at that time was the switchblade knife and every boy wanted one to carry in his pocket. It was legal and I remember I hadone. That too became the weapon of choice because it was easy to carry and conceal until you needed it for use. That weapon became a deadly tool for people who wanted to take someone’s life but later it had to be regulated by the federal government. For example it is illegal to carry a concealed knife in California if the blade is over two inches long. In Mississippi it is legal to carry any knife if it is not concealed or the carrier is not intoxicated. I take that to mean that lawmakers believed only drunks will use the knife to harm someone. Under the federal “weapons act” states and local governments get to regulate what kind of knives people can carry or own.

I believe we should let people have the right to bear arms while also giving local states and governments the right to regulate how guns can be carried and what kind can be owned.

Most cities that have gangs or high homicide rates would outlaw automatic or assault type guns in their cities, while shot guns and revolvers are acceptable. In this way if Arizona wanted to stay the “Tombstone” and “OK Coral” type of state then they could do so, while Tucson might want to say when you come into town leave your guns at home. That was the way Wyatt Earp was able to bring law and order in the towns that he served as Marshal. If police chiefs had their way they would say to citizens “help me make our community a safer place by putting certain requirements on what kinds of guns can be lawful in our city.” In this way the right of a citizen to bear arms would not be taken away but the kind ofgun would be regulated.

Then we have those who have a mental disorder that should deny them the privilege to have a weapon of any kind, gun, knife, ax handle, stick, or illegal drugs in their possession. This is another delicate area for our society to figure out. How can a society identify and treat those in our society with a mental condition that is on the brink of murder? During the eighties we had a rash of employees doing some horrible things to what they called overbearing managers. If you can recall it was called going “postal”. Employers put together training programs for managers and implemented “threats in the workplaces” policies. These actions were designed to prevent something drastic from happening in the workplace. It forced supervisors and co-workers to be aware of people’s demeanor and statements they made while at work. Procedures were given to all workers on what to do if they felt uncomfortable about another employee’s behavior or statements. I know because I had to investigate many of those complaints and confidentiality played a major role in the success of such reporting and investigating.

However, we currently have a large mentally ill outpatient population that needs serious attention, especially in the African American community. This illness is not one we like to talk about because of what we think it represents. Many of our boys and men act out in violence because of neglect in professional mental services and treatment.

When you mix an automatic weapon in the hands of a person who is unstable in their thinking, you are asking for trouble. Then you have a free society, and an atmosphere of fear and violence it becomes a recipe for something bad to happen to innocent people.

Congress must begin the discussion of the right to bear arms and the right for local government to regulate what kind of weapons citizens can own.

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