With all the craziness going on in the world, it sometimes seems our divisive political parties focus on less critical issues. Explosive situations in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Pakistan, and other Middle East hotspots are a near and present danger. The birth of a global war via terrorism has given the entire world a different perspective on safety, travel, schools, defense, crowds, borders – practically every part of our daily lives.
Domestic challenges — health care, elder care, education, assistance for the mentally ill, the right-to-life controversy, gay rights, and more – sometimes seem neglected with our elected decision makers.
One issue affecting Texans is the right to keep and bear arms, undoubtedly escalated since 9/11 and subsequent terrorism. Sometimes the terror we experience originates not in the Middle East but in the minds of mentally ill citizens.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights (insuring Americans’ right to bear arms) was adopted Dec. 15, 1791, and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights (1689).
Consider the present-day controversy in the context of history. In 1791 our newborn nation was less than 20 years into its existence, a reality earned with the blood of many courageous colonists and early immigrants.
For years our infant nation had been in an ongoing conflict with the British, the French, and a variety of justifiably resentful Native American tribes. Thus an individual’s right to keep and bear arms was not only a right but a common-sense necessity.
Complications Created by Our Societal Problems
Today, more than 200 years later, the right to bear arms still makes sense but is uniquely complicated by the evolution of our society and culture. I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of American citizens do not want to see a massive proliferation of machine guns and automatic weapons originally designed for a war’s wholesale destruction.
On the other hand many believe we should have the right to protect our families and property and enjoy the varied sports involving guns. Ratchet that one up about 20 times and you’ve got Texas.
One local writer recently promised deadly harm to anyone who tried to confiscate his guns. That’s a little extreme on two levels – shooting a government worker and the idea that the Land of the Free will ever get to the point of confiscating firearms. Come on, get real.
Growing up in Cisco/Eastland with a hunting family and many hunter friends sometimes felt as if we were living the life of the Great White Hunters of the Southern Plains. (That’s not a play on race or culture but rather a reference to Africa’s seminal culture of Great White Hunters.) It seemed as if everyone hunted or was hunted – deer, turkeys, doves, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes, feral pigs, and more.
The Taylors founded a legacy of local deer hunting with the Steffens, the Arseneaus, the Schaefers, and a few other non-drinking hunting families. They erected sophisticated hunting camps, brought their families, cooked expansive campfire meals, and indulged in hilarious evenings around the fire, telling tales on each other and themselves. Deer carcasses hung from nearby trees, promising a winter of venison chili, chicken-fried venison steaks, and venison sausages.
My brother David Taylor and I began our training with guns when we were eight or nine years old with strictly monitored practice at the shooting range and around campfires with eyes as big as saucers listening to the tall tales. And the stories were legend – the kind you tell over and over at every family gathering, just as enjoyable as the first time you heard them.
Of the elder Taylors, Arseneaus, Steffens and Schaefers, many are gone now with the exception of a few: Dorothy Arseneau, a beautiful 91-year-old, lives in Arlington and earlier this year donated a Randy Steffen oil painting to Cisco College. Ask her about those deer-hunting stories, and settle in for a ripping good time. Gene Schaefer lives in Cisco, and Joe Schaefer is in Arlington. The various Schaefer branches are part of Eastland County’s German heritage.
Politicians Miss the Real Problem
Those memories make it difficult to take sides in the ongoing issue of gun ownership. That complicated issue is less about guns than it is about so many young people growing up with anger, neglect, abuse, and no one to diagnose their mental illness and help them heal or cope.
Strong action is needed to identify these troubled children and help them navigate their way into a sane and safe life. Otherwise we will lose far more than 20 six-and-seven-year-olds and six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Here is a cause worthy of all of us. The demise of our national mental health programs is a scandal of awesome proportions in a country as sophisticated and resourceful as ours. The great majority of homeless simply have no ability to locate and submit their illnesses to professional medical care.
Former President Ronald Regan built his presidency on, among other issues, reduction of taxes. Reduce taxes and it follows you must reduce government spending – neither of which is a bad thing. Unless the cut-back encompasses mental health care available to everyone, not just the rich and entitled.
Additional victims are the young people in our schools so mentally ill they resort to violence and mass shootings. Many of these could have been identified as early as the first or second grades and helped to deal with their demons.
Firearm ownership and subsequent mass murders are not an issue of guns but of the unconscionable neglect of some of our desperately needy children. This is not something that can be fixed after a child reaches the teenage years or even when a young person reaches the end of his ability to deal with the anger, frustration, and dysfunction of mental illness. It has to start when a small child’s physical and mental makeup is forming.
Think about it. Remember: change starts with me…and you.