The recent “debate” regarding “Second Amendment sanctuaries” at Spotswood High School dare not set a precedent for future matters brought before the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors. They timidly let angry shouts usurp what could have been an honest and rewarding debate. Anyone who wanted to speak should have been heard. Supervisors could have wisely used their gavel and the several sheriff’s deputies there to keep order.
Ironically, the views of this loud crowd are contrary to the opinions of the vast majority of gun owners in Virginia and country, including NRA members. They are not simply gun owners. They are gundamentalists -- a quasi-religious sect that claims gun rights are absolutes and come from God and no restrictions can be linked with the Second Amendment.
I support the Second Amendment, and formerly was an NRA member. Both sides should examine the Supreme Court’s landmark case on gun rights in 2008. (Heller v. District of Columbia). To explain the court’s decision that owning a gun was an individual right, the majority chose a champion for gun rights, the late Antonin Scalia.
Scalia wrote, “like most rights, the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. The Court’s opinion, although refraining from an exhaustive analysis of the full scope of the right, should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
These words negate any assertion for unrestricted rights on guns, yet, that same claim remains the goal of this zealous sect who oppose every regulation before state or federal legislative bodies and plan to harass anyone who thinks otherwise.
Secondly, we should listen to Republican pollster Frank Luntz, who conducted a National Poll of Gun Owners in 2009. After interviewing gun owners and NRA members, he concluded “80% of all gun owners believe gun rights and public safety are not irreconcilable but complementary.” Those numbers have increased dramatically since 2009 and 94% of Americans favor background checks on all guns sold.
Gun owners I know are civic-minded and belong to a growing movement that supports sensible reform. We are searching for middle ground so we can build the America we all want. Because of the ubiquitous maneuverings by this tiny minority, the progress is slow, but it is sure. In 2018, nearly 40,000 Americans died at the barrels of guns. We don’t have to live this way. We are better than that.
We await the arrival of more good citizens and strong, rational voices from the silent majority who are willing to take a risk for love and safety’s sake. God grieves and so do we even as we live and work in hope.
James E. Atwood lives in Rockingham. He is the author of "Gundamentalism and Where It is Taking America" and "Collateral Damage: Changing the Conversation About Firearms and Faith," recently published by Herald Press.