I’ll be starting trial this week in Norwich. My client is accused of murder. The victim was shot to death, point blank, with a hand gun. The gun has never been found. As near as I can tell from reading the police reports, a bunch of people were hanging out in a low-income neighborhood, rolling dice, getting stoned, and passing a communal bottle of alcohol. A hooded man walked up, pointed a handgun at the back of man’s head, and pulled the trigger. The shooting seems almost random, casual even.
I’ve seen far too many of these sorts of cases in recent years. They are far too common. Young men get in a beef about something, a girl, a slight, drugs, and then, someone returns with a gun. Shots are fired, and quick death is delivered courtesy of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Dis’ me and die, sucker — that’s the new motto for patriots.
This right to bear arms, to transform our streets into killing fields, is overrated.
Why don’t we repeal the Second Amendment once and for all?
We love our guns. They are supposed to keep us safe and secure. Government is supposed to shudder at the prospect of an armed citizenry’s resorting to self-help to chase tyrants from office. That’s patriotic nonsense. We don’t revolt. Despite all our wild rhetoric about the dangers of federal tyranny, we’re a highly regulated and largely supine people. Every four years, a verbal war of words takes place prior to presidential elections. Then we settle down into a compliant torpor, moaning and groaning about government, but trusting and obeying every step of the way.
When we use our guns, we turn them against one another, and for the pettiest of reasons. The rhetoric supporting the right to bear arms does not match the reality of how we use them. We’re not concerned about foreign invasion, or federal tyranny: we just want the right to shoot our neighbors to death if they give us the evil eye.
We have the highest rate of gun ownership in the world: there are 88 guns per every 100 people in this country. We account for about 5 percent of the world’s population, but own at least 35 percent of the handguns in the world. Some estimates claim we own half the world’s handguns. The nation just behind us? Yemen, the land of a failed state and apocalyptic anarchy. The African nation has 55 firearms for every 100 people, according to statistics gathered by the United Nations.
I got in my share of fistfights as a kid, and I’ve been angry enough to kill on more than one occasion. But, to date, I’ve never shot at another human being. I expect to die without ever having fired a shot in anger. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be on my death bed filled with regret.
I do recall the first time I saw a handgun in the hands of a child, however. I was in high school, at Edwin Denby High School in Detroit in the 1970s. I ran track briefly, and would get to the school early to run up and down the stairs before classes started. One day, I headed to the showers after my workout. It was early still. I heard two guys a row of lockers away whispering. Then I heard a whirling sound. When I peaked around the corner to see what was whirring, I saw a small black revolver in the hands of another student. It scared me. I gave up heading into school for morning runs. Not long after that, a classmate was shot to death in the parking lot in a drive-by shooting.
Then the man my mother was living with made new enemies, enemies who threatened to come to our home to exact vengeance on him. He took a handgun and sat in the front of our duplex waiting for visitors. I was assigned a rifle and told to keep an eye on the back of the house. My mother, frantic, was forbidden to call the police. We kept vigil, me wondering whether I’d have the courage to shoot, and hoping someone would arrive at the front of our house and put an end to the man who’d brought this violence into our home.
Detroit scared me; it scares me still. I left that city as fast as I could, vowing never to return. Now it appears Detroit is everywhere.
The killing fields have come to New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New London, Stamford. I’ve represented young men in each of the cities accused of using guns in acts of sometimes lethal violence. These are high school kids, or kids just out of high school. They get angry, enraged, and they reach for a weapon, letting bullets do what my fists used to accomplish when I was a man-child. We then lock these kids up for a lifetime, treating them as outcasts unfit to walk the streets with the rest of us. What a waste.
Where do all these guns come from? Who is dumping them into inner cities? What does arming high school kids have to do with the Second Amendment? Why do we even need to have handguns at all? Finally, why not harsh penalties for the purveyors of this cheap and easy violence?
It’s not persuasive to tell me the founders intended us to have hand guns. I doubt my ancestors ever heard of the United States when the Second Amendment became the law of the land. I frankly don’t much care what the founders had to say. I do care about safe streets, and wasted lives. Perhaps it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment; let’s send handguns the way of slavery. Or maybe we just want to fill the prisons with new slaves.