This article originally ran in The Hill.
American culture is steeped in a culture of guns. The only sustained radio series the famed actor Jimmy Stewart was ever part of began with the words, "The man in the saddle is angular and long-legged. His skin is sun-dyed brown. The gun in his holster is gray steel and rainbow mother-of-pearl, its handle unmarked. People call them both the 'Six Shooter.'"
William Conrad played the famed Marshal Matt Dillon in a series that began each week with, "Around Dodge City and in the territory out West, there's just one way to handle the killers and the spoilers and that's with a U.S. Marshal and the smell of gunsmoke!"
"Restless Gun," "Have Gun Will Travel" a detective know as Peter Gunn — Americans have watched and listened to legends of guns settling problems for generations. In the post-World War II era, our parents gave us toy six-shooters, machine guns, grenade and rocket launchers and we played games that ended with "Bang, bang, you're dead!"
Now we are being forced to think of the other side of that equation. What happens when the stories are real and the guns are not solving the problems so much as being used as a tool by those who want to reign down bloodshed, death and destruction? What happens when innocent children are killed by the dozens or nightclub-goers are killed by the score while an equal number are wounded and maimed? Does the same old line from the National Rifle Association (NRA) make us feel safer in the new, deadlier America? You know that line: "Guns don't kill people; people kill people."
Really? And what do they use most often as a weapon of choice? Well, the AR-15 seems to have the wacko seal-of-approval; a large magazine weapon that gives almost unlimited firepower as the shooter goes from one large capacity clip to another. The NRA's words ring hollow.
Now let me interject: I am not known as a bleeding-heart liberal. I had an "A" rating from the NRA during most of my career. My district was portrayed pretty accurately in the movie "The Deer Hunter."
Those are my family members, friends and neighbors. They elected me to the House of Representatives four times and with never less that about two-thirds of the vote.
But friends, enough is enough!
How many people who shout about their Second Amendment rights have read the amendment? "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."
Some people say that the militia part means the amendment is outdated. That having been forced to fight a professional army — the British — George Washington and other leaders wanted to have a citizens' army or militia, armed and ready. Others say that the last part, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed" is all that is important to know.
Let's take a look at the first three words: "a well regulated." Take it in. Breathe it. Taste it. Think about those words. "Regulated" means that there will be rules and the government has the right to establish them. Furthermore, the rights to carry arms will be "well regulated."
Members of Congress undertook an action of civil disobedience on the floor of the House of Representatives not because they insist that legislation be passed to well-regulate gun ownership (can those on the no-fly list buy guns?); they just want to vote on the matter of who is in favor of "well regulating" the ownership of guns so that Americans might be safer.