Tom Derby, who lives in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, has taught reading and English in Camden, New Jersey for 18 years, and he is appalled by the killing spree in Philadelphia and in Camden, the waste-case city across the Delaware River from Philly:
Stuck in the 1700s
By Tom Derby
Two of my former students were shot dead in separate incidents – not in the streets but at parties, and not by drug dealers but by other students they knew.
Another of my students was knifed to death in a dispute over ownership of a handgun. Wouldn’t it be nice if students had such a sense of ownership in their education?
A few A-graded papers still in my files bring back my worst memory of all.
A good athlete and an A student in ninth grade, Len used to express fascination with guns and gangs. His departure from school was not sudden but gradual. He would greet me politely at his locker in the morning even after, as I later learned, he was in deep trouble.
I lost track of Len, and a colleague brought me the bad news before the papers got it: He had become a professional assassin, and his own gang killed him and set his body on fire in a football field in North Camden.
Mr Derby continues further, to blame the availability of guns and our right to own firearms, but I’ve got to ask: at what point does it penetrate Mr Derby’s thinking that his former student was “a professional assassin?” It seems to me that his former student chose a life of using guns to get ahead, yet Mr Derby blames not Len, but the guns he, and others, used!
- We cite the Second Amendment and see ourselves as proud individuals jealously defending our individual rights. The shotgun is still strapped to the door of the pickup. Bullets blaze through the streets.
But let’s look at the context in which the Founding Fathers had to operate.
When in 1791 James Madison led the adoption of 10 amendments to our Constitution, formally recognized today as our Bill of Rights, there were fresh memories of the brutality suffered by the first Americans as they tried to carve out a nation independent of a foreign king.
They remembered the British and Hessian thugs who had roamed the countryside, ready to steal cows and pigs, quarter themselves in whatever homes they chose, violate women, and use their weapons at will.
The Second Amendment reads, “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.”
American farmers were the standing militia of the day. There were no police or National Guard, and only the beginnings of an army. These were the minutemen – brave, tough men and women ready to fight at a moment’s notice.
The historical context of this part of the Bill of Rights – the recurring nightmare of Redcoat soldiers – shows that every American family needed a musket standing against the wall, ready to load and ready to kill.
Not so today. The premise of the Second Amendment, the need for minutemen, no longer exists. In a free society we must rely on the police. We have more important rights to fight for than the right to bear arms.
Such as our right to live and defend ourselves?
- The Second Amendment will not go down easily, but go down it must. Marketing of weapons is too profitable an enterprise for attitudes to change overnight, but change they must.
When wolves as well as human predators roamed freely in the Northeast, one was entitled to defend one’s family and property with firearms.
Circumstances have changed; we need to reconsider that entitlement. Why do we want America to continue being the murder capital of the Western world?
What Mr Derby seems to have forgotten is that we still have “wolves as well as human predators roamed freely in the Northeast.” Is he unable to make the connection that one of those wolves and human predators was his own student?
I’ll give Mr Derby credit for honesty, in admitting that he wants to see the Second Amendment repealed; too few of the opponents of the right to keep and bear arms do that. But if our forefathers had to defend against violence from British soldiers and Indians and wild animals, the only thing that has changed is the source of the violence against which we must defend ourselves; the violent ones are still out there.