They are among the latest martyrs to the Second Amendment – the 70 moviegoers who were shot, 12 fatally, in a Denver suburb last week. Politicians will wring their hands, but won’t rein in guns because they regard as sacrosanct the right of a person to own a ton of firepower. They value that right more than life itself.
But don’t they at least owe tribute to the innocents who pay for our lax gun laws with their blood? I propose that Congress erect on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a monument to the Second Amendment martyrs. Private organizations, like the National Rifle Association, could help finance the project.
The monument could take the shape of a bullet with the names of the many thousands of martyrs etched on it. Or it could take the form of a giant pistol with thousands of notches on the handle, one for each innocent killed, à la the Wild West. Or maybe the monument could go high tech, with flashing images of the men and women and boys and girls who spilt their blood for the Second Amendment.
You’d think that, in the face of bloodbaths – such as at Columbine and Virginia Tech – our politicians would narrow gun rights. Well, they did the opposite. In the last decade, Congress let the ban on semiautomatic weapons expire; one statehouse after another permitted the carrying of concealed firearms, and the nation's top court ensconced the right of individuals to bear arms more firmly in the U.S. Constitution. Even the shooting of one of their own, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has failed to move politicians to reverse course.
International comparisons point to the role our lax gun laws play in our frequent murders and occasional massacres. With an assault rate more than twice as high as America’s, Great Britain appears to be the more violent country. Yet, paradoxically, America’s murder rate is almost four times Britain’s. In other words, though violent conflicts happen more frequently in Britain, they are far less likely to end up as homicides there than in the United States. The most logical explanation: The United Kingdom’s strict gun controls mean that guns don’t wildly proliferate there, as they do in America. So Britons are less likely than Americans to reach for a gun to settle their differences. Yes, NRA, guns do kill.
Canada, which has stricter gun laws than does the United States, shows a similar pattern. Its assault rate is almost twice America’s. Yet, the murder rate of the United States is almost three times that of Canada’s.
Tellingly, James E. Holmes, the accused shooter at the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., broke no law in purchasing a semiautomatic rifle with a 100-round barrel magazine and perhaps two semiautomatic pistols, as well as a shotgun. He violated no law in buying over the Internet 3,000 rounds for the rifle, another 3,000 for the pistols and 350 shotgun shells.
So highly do they value the right to bear arms, American politicians want everybody to have the ability to be armed for combat. Inevitably, that combat will from time to time take place against unsuspecting civilians at a movie theater, in a classroom, at a political event – a price that politicians show through their action and inaction they are willing to pay. But if they’re going to sacrifice lives to the almighty gun, the least they can do is pay homage to those lives with a Second Amendment monument on the National Mall.