Today, the US Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the city of Washington, D.C., could not impose a wide ranging ban on hand guns (NY Times). The ruling was widely seen as a victory for 2nd Amendment activists and the NRA. They are threatening to sue all cities that currently impose handgun bans. Legal experts believe that the Supreme Court ruling was very narrow in scope and that cities can continue to impose limited restrictions on carrying handguns in public. In other words, the ruling didn’t give an overwhelming victory to either side.
I grew up in Tokyo, a place where the only guns I saw while growing up were made of plastic. Homicides were rare, and gun shootings rarer. It never occurred to me to be excessively careful walking around at night, as a kid, as a junior high student, and as a high schooler. I don’t know if it was because of the peaceful nature of the people in Japan or because of the lack of weapons of mass killings, but Tokyo was always considered “safe.” (although there are always the crazies like the idiot who mowed down and stabbed pedestrians in Akihabara).
For me, it was a no-brainer that fewer guns meant a safer place. But in the States, I was told that more guns was actually safer. In fact, the cowboy mentality ruled.
During the earlier days of my stay in the US, I enjoyed watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He was a man with a cynical sense of humor, and liked to point out the tiny foibles in everyday life. I recall an episode in which he talked about a particularly disturbing incident in Boston, or somewhere in the Northeast. It was during a hot summer day, and children were squirting each other with their water guns and pistols. This was when the water cannons became popular. By pumping the chamber full of air, thus pressurizing it, these weapons allowed the bearers to shoot highly focused streams of water 20, 30, or even 50 feet. Needless to say, the receiver of such punishment would feel not only wetness, but often a stinging sensation.
A couple gang members were going at it with these water cannons, and the tempers escalated. One of the gang members went home and got a gun and shot the other. There was a huge outcry, and the mayor of the city decided that in order to keep peace, he was going to ban the water cannons.
Johnny Carson got a good laugh out of that, and so did the audience. I would laugh almost every day when I listen to the lame excuses of Constitutional arguments that proponents of gun rights would recite, except I couldn’t, because except for their lack of intellectual honesty, there was nothing funny. There were victims who’s lives were either changed drastically or terminated as a result of these guns.
Somewhere out there, the framers of the Constitution are probably wondering how they got this one so wrong. But they won’t be alone. Sitting next to them are the nuclear physicists who had believed that splitting the atom was going to lead to world peace.