By now, most Americans know or should know who Aiden McCarthy is.
He is the two-year-old toddler, orphaned one week ago in an instant burst of utterly senseless gunfire that cut down his parents, Irina and Kevin McCarthy, and scores of other Americans who were gathered in Highland Park, Illinois, on July 4th to celebrate America’s 246th birthday. Seven are dead, and dozens of all ages are wounded, some of whom may never walk again, including an eight-year-old boy whose spinal cord was severed by the shooter. Once more, a nation is traumatized.
Aiden was orphaned by a demented young man armed with an AR15 semi-automatic rifle powered with a 30-round magazine (all legally purchased). Others indirectly contributed to Aiden’s new status as an orphan, including a gaggle of vested interests; gun-pandering politicians, self-serving gun manufacturers and merchants, and the misguided who vouchsafe the right of everyone at least eighteen years old to acquire and tote these military-style killing machines. They sully the names and the memory of those who are cut down. And yes, they also sully the founders of America by insisting that the brisk sale and distribution of these weapons is somehow consistent with what the founders intended in order to keep America free.
Indeed, the 27 words the founders penned, which we know as the Second Amendment to the Constitution, have been consistently interpreted and adjudicated to guarantee the right of nearly unfettered gun ownership in America. The courts and virtually all constitutional scholars agree that the right to bear arms is pretty much absolute in America. I, like many others, have read and reread just about everything of record attributed to the founders regarding the Second Amendment. I agree. They believed strongly that an uninfringed right to bear arms would protect the American People against an American standing army that might someday repress them, as standing armies in monarchical Europe had repressed their forbears from time immemorial.
However, the era in which Americans might have been wary, if not distrustful, of the new nation’s standing military has long passed. Indeed, our armed forces are our federal establishment’s most admired, honored, respected, and trusted arm. But, of course, the Second Amendment, written 231 years ago to protect us, if necessary, from our brand-new standing army, remains. There is no arguing with that. There also is no arguing with the total abandon with which the founders’ intent has been corrupted by the politicization and glorification of the Second Amendment.
It would be folly to question what the founders intended. Their intention was abundantly clear in what they wrote and spoke. They intended widespread gun ownership to protect America from its own armed forces in the event that despotic leaders used America’s new standing army to repress the people. That is absolutely what they intended. What the founders did not intend, or anticipate, is the mockery made of their reasoning by ambitious politicians seeking votes, and eager gun manufacturers seeking sales.
The founders would be appalled that their 27 words have been corrupted into a mind-numbing elixir enabling many unthinking citizens to tolerate almost unrelenting carnage in American communities. They did not anticipate that children such as Aiden would be senselessly orphaned by armed miscreants, politicians, and industries making a mockery of the founders’ intent. And, for sure, they did not intend that an industry would, someday, profit handsomely by using the founders’ twenty-seven words to underpin and justify the mass marketing of weapons, the lethality of which the founders could not have imagined or condoned as recreational playthings or murderous instruments in the hands of murderous people.
Those twenty-seven words comprising the Second Amendment speak for themselves. They do not have an expiration date, even though the original rationale for their inclusion has long since expired. The initial American 800-man standing army, 246 years ago, made many people nervous, including the founders. So, the Second Amendment to our Constitution was conceived to allay everyone’s concern. With as many as 800,000 armed households in the new nation, there would be no need to worry about a standing army that might be misused or go rogue. American families with arms outnumbered the nation’s new standing army by about 1,000 to 1.
The intent of those who drafted the Second Amendment was to assure the citizens of the new nation they could defend themselves against their own government if the government ever used America’s new standing army to oppress them. Twentieth-century court decisions have expanded that original intent to include the right to bear arms for protection against anyone who might criminally pose a threat of bodily harm. However, the Second Amendment was originally conceived to put the new nation’s collective mind at ease. One might question how many thinking minds are at ease today.
The original rationale for the Second Amendment has, by any reasonable reckoning, long since passed. There are few, if any, sane people in America today who own weapons in preparation for a potential standoff against the armed forces of the United States of America. Good people own weapons today for protection against bad people, and to hunt, and some, no doubt, simply to shoot at a gun range. The gun owners I know, both family and friends, are a threat to no one.
However, America has witnessed over three hundred mass shootings so far this year with a variety of side arms and long guns. Those weapons are widely available, legally and illegally. The Second Amendment doesn’t condone the illegal possession and certainly not the illegal use of firearms. But the sad truth is that it provides the easily manipulated means by which these weapons have been and are being trafficked for illegal and unintended use.
Often, those who champion and condone the widespread availability of these semi-automatic assault rifles wrap themselves in the stars and stripes and call themselves patriots. Nonsense! Chicago columnist Sidney J. Harris penned it best many years ago, “The difference between patriotism and nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does, and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance….“
Many Americans are contributing to special funds to provide for the well-being of the surviving victims and their families. We help them because the people who make these weapons available have lobbied successfully to avoid any financial responsibility for the costs they impose on the families of the Aidens of America.
America, of course, owes Aiden and so many like him much more than it can ever provide. There are countless Aidens and others whose families have been torn apart by gun violence in America. What can be done? That’s a question every American voter needs to ponder.