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1927 - Newhall telephone exchange, est. 1900, now serves 100 phones [story]

Out of Left Field | Commentary by Charlie Vignola
| Tuesday, Dec 25, 2012

charlievignolaI’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday, no matter what their denomination.

Sadly, the holiday season will never be the same to the people of Newtown, Conn., who lost so many of their loved ones in one of the worst mass shootings in modern history.

What is it about firearms that is so appealing to Americans – more so than the citizens of any other nation on earth? They’re so appealing that we as a nation are willing to suffer through more than 30,000 gun-related deaths per year just to keep them legal and plentiful.

It all dates back to the birth of America, a perilous time when foreign invaders threatened our very shores, inspiring our Founding Fathers to add the Second Amendment to the Constitution: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That’s it, the whole thing, that one sentence.

You’ll notice the amendment opens with the phrase, “a well regulated militia,” framing the specific context in which we had the right to bear arms. To this day, there’s debate over the interpretation of this, although I’m not sure how or why.

It seems pretty self-explanatory, doesn’t it? At a time when we were fighting for our right to become a nation and enemy soldiers posed a threat on U.S. soil, the founders made it an enumerated right that guns could be in the possession of a “well regulated militia.” This was at a time when we didn’t have a National Guard, a standing army or even local police forces as we now know them. So of course it made sense for a well-regulated militia to be able to carry guns to defend our nascent country.

But it’s not 1776 anymore, and we don’t have Redcoats on the streets of America threatening our families. Nothing in that one sentence that makes up the entirety of the Second Amendment says you have the right to a lethal weapon if you are not part of a “well regulated militia.”

“Well regulated” is specific language, not a random phrase, and the key word is “regulated.” You know how Republicans detest regulations, and how they’re always looking for ways to deregulate everything? Well, the Founding Fathers didn’t care. They thought firearms were important enough to regulate, and they said so quite clearly.

It’s ironic that the people who are so paranoid about how dangerous the world is insist on allowing more and deadlier guns on the streets of America year after year – more than 300 million and counting – which, of course, makes the world more dangerous, thus justifying their demands for more guns. It’s a sick feedback loop, a Kafka-esque, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Look. You’re so concerned about self-defense? That’s the real reason you want to have the right to carry a gun? Fine. We’ve had tremendous breakthroughs in non-lethal weapons over the last 20 years, everything from tasers and guns that shoot rubber bullets to sonic weapons. If that’s your big bugaboo, let’s outlaw all lethal weapons in America unless you’re a cop, soldier, federal agent or security guard, and allow people to carry state-of-the-art, non-lethal weapons that will get the same job done without the possibility of killing innocent bystanders or committing mass murders. Would that satisfy the more reasonable members of the NRA?

What about hunters and their God-given right to kill innocent animals for food and sport? Well, maybe we could have them check out GPS-enabled guns from local departments of fish and game for use during the hunting season, sort of like a public library system for firearms, so we’d know who has them and what they’re being used for.

And perhaps as Chris Rock has suggested, bullets should be outrageously expensive, so people would really have to think twice before firing them.

Granted, these might not be perfect solutions, but they’re a start.

What about the more paranoid members of the NRA? The ones who listen to Alex Jones podcasts, don’t understand what’s so weird about the show “Doomsday Preppers” and are anxiously waiting for the black helicopters to usher them to FEMA camps where they’ll be chemically sterilized and brainwashed?

For those with more active imaginations, I’d like to point out a few facts. You know that ever-rising military budget you’ve always supported and the War on Terror you’ve backed all these years? Well, thanks to those, America has secret prisons, whisper-quiet predator drones that can attack civilian populations, warrantless wiretapping of all Americans’ phone calls and emails, not to mention satellites that can read a license plate from space, tanks and aircraft carriers, stealth bombers and battleships, and chemical and nuclear weapons. All of this courtesy of you, the American taxpayer.

Beyond that, thanks to the rise and popularity of social media, more than 1 billion people on Facebook have willingly given access to their circles of friends, political leanings and actual GPS locations at any given moment, all of which can be demanded by the government thanks to the Patriot Act that was rammed through after 9/11.

So if America suddenly becomes an Orwellian tyranny overnight? Good luck to Billy Bob and his good ol’ boy army storming D.C. with their rifles and having to contend with all of that.

Here’s the bottom line: Guns make our country more dangerous, and the more guns on the streets, the more dangerous it is. It’s not a debatable point. That’s why there are more gun-related deaths in America than in any other nation on earth by a factor of 10. It’s also true that we can’t just magically wish away the 300 million guns that already exist in America any more than we can magically deport the millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in America. So, what to do?

You’ve already heard the common-sense solutions, the ones we can agree on immediately: Outlaw assault weapons, ban high-volume magazines, and most importantly, close the gun show loophole that allows four out of every 10 guns in America to be purchased without a background check – a flaw so egregious that al-Qaeda members are encouraged by their leaders to take advantage of it.

Will addressing these issues solve the problem of gun violence in America? No, but they don’t have to. All they have to do is help minimize the problems, and just by doing that, we could save lives. Hell, if we save even one life, it’s worth it, isn’t it?

Obviously there are other contributing factors; cultural issues and dealing with mental health play big parts, as well. The truth is, we’ll never be able to regulate fully what’s in people’s minds, nor do we want to as a free society. But we are able to regulate consumer products, which is all that guns are, and on that score we can definitely make a meaningful difference.

The only question is: Do we have the collective will to see it through?


Charlie Vignola describes himself as a former College Republican turned liberal Democrat.  A resident of the Santa Clarita Valley since 1999, he works in the motion picture industry and loves his wife and kids.



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  1. Sooo….”Guns make our country more dangerous”, but “Will addressing these issues solve the problem of gun violence in America? No”…

    Just curious, then, what’s the point of your article, other than another baseless attack on good people owning guns , devoid of statistics and wrought with emotion?

    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government” – Thomas Jefferson

    “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good”– George Washington

    “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.”– Mahatma Gandhi

    Men trained in arms from their infancy, and animated by the love of liberty, will afford neither a cheap or easy conquest.– From the Declaration of the Continental Congress, July 1775.

  2. Kevitivity says:

    First, some perspective: Swimming pools kill 100 times more children each year than guns (http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2001/07/27/levittpoolsvsguns/).

    Mr Vignol, Like freedom of speech, gun ownership in America is a civil right. Our founding fathers, like most Americans today (thank God) understood how important it is for a free citizenry to be able to defend itself.

    I urge you to move beyond your knee-jerk and emotional response to the Newtown tradgedy and instead focus on the real issue at hand, which is how we as a nation deal with mental illness in this country. Disarming the good guys helps no one.

  3. Kimji says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful commentary!

  4. Kevitivity says:

    There is far more evidence that anti-gun politicians are more dangerous than guns. New data, gathered by the Sac Bee, shows that even as gun sales are up dramatically in CA, gun deaths are down. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/27/5079151/california-gun-sales-increase.html

  5. DMV says:

    Progressive liberals make the U.S. more dangerous.. Since this is an opinion piece..

  6. DMV says:

    and again define Militia.. You use the term as if you know what it is.. Do you?

  7. Dennis says:

    Douchebag liberal.

  8. c.b. says:

    Should’t liberals of all people realize that banning things doesn’t make them disappear? Or are they too stoned with their illegally purchased drugs to understand

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