The Second Amendment Does Not Permit Assault Weapons

The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America:

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.


I saw what our founders meant by that amendment early one April morning on the village green in Lexington, Massachusetts. It was before dawn, about 5:30 A.M. I could hear the ominous sound of the measured beating of a drum in the distance. The sound kept getting closer and closer. The beating of the drum was the only sound in the still of that pre-dawn morning.

As the sound of the beating drum became louder and louder and was accompanied by the sound of marching feet, a few men from the houses surrounding the village green came out on the green and began shouting to one another. They loaded their muskets. They lined up in a ragtag order and stood together on the green. They were the Minutemen, the militia of the town of Lexington, mostly farmers, ready to face those who were attacking their homeland.

Over the hill, came the marchers, men in red coats, the British Army. The drum continued to beat. A shot was fired. The militia of Lexington and the British Army then opened fire on each other. And that was the beginning of the American Revolution.

What I was witnessing was a present day re-enactment of that 1775 battle. It took my breath away to feel the tension in the air on that cold morning and to see first-hand the risks the men of the militia took as they defended their emerging country. Of course, the men of that militia should have had those muskets. Of course, the protection of their fellow citizens demanded it.

Yet now 243 years after that battle in Lexington, the intention of the Second Amendment is misconstrued such that many of those who hold political power put assault weapons in the hands of citizens, assault weapons which they use, not to protect the “security of the State”, but to hunt and kill their fellow citizens.

It is insanity.

What can we do about it?

  1. Work as hard as we can to vote out of office those who support gun violence. Find  a district in which a candidate who wants to ban assault weapons needs our help and then dig in. Work remotely.  Donate. Show up.
  2. Support businesses that have taken stands against gun violence by ending preferred  treatment for members of the NRA. Here is a link to a list of those companies.  
  3. Don’t do business with companies that refuse to take a stand against gun violence  and continue to support the NRA. Here is a link to a list of those companies.

What will be my first steps?

  • I am going to email Sister District to find a candidate to support. Here is that link. 
  • I am canceling my account at FedEx and will use other sources for mailing packages because FedEx refuses to break its ties to the NRA.
  • Then, I will go to Dicks Sporting Goods and buy new workout clothes that I don’t even need because that company has decided to stop selling assault weapons.
  • And when I fly, it will be only on Delta, both in support of their stand against gun violence and in solidarity with the airline for the way the Georgia state government is penalizing it with higher taxes because of its stand against gun violence.

In taking actions to fight the gun lobby and take assault weapons out of the hands of citizens, we will be connected to those men who ran out on the Lexington Green 243 years ago. They were committed to creating a better country than the one they then had. And so now are we. We will build a stronger United States. We will create a nation that does everything in its power to prevent the slaughter of its children.





Betting on the Kids of Stoneman Douglas

John Meacham, the erudite presidential historian, was asked if he thought the protest by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School would change the gun laws in this country. He said that, much as he admired the students, he doubted it very much.  He said that change takes a long time so, even if change happened, it wouldn’t be soon.

He gave two examples of the long time it takes to create social change.  One example was Abigail Adams, writing to her husband in 1776 to “remember the ladies” in regard to female rights as he was working with others to produce the Declaration of Independence, but it took 144 years before women had the right to vote. The other example was that the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1863, but 100 years later, in the 1960’s, blacks were still battling for their civil rights and racism continues to plague our country today.

Not everyone doubts that the students will produce a substantive social change. Dahlia Lithwick, who writes about the courts and the law for Slate, is optimistic about the students’ success in changing the gun laws in this country. She is optimistic because she sees ways in which the students are creating social change that are different from how adults of the present operate and how efforts of the past went down. Dahlia Lithwick says that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are different because:

1.     They are ignoring Donald Trump. They regard him as a symptom of the problem of gun violence and unworthy of credit or blame. They stay focused on and give their attention to the problem itself.

2.     They don’t waste time and energy arguing with people who don’t share their values and goals.  They don’t attempt gentle persuasion; they know they are being lied to.

 3.     They don’t seem hell-bent on having leaders.  They share the spotlight with one another and take turns being the spokesperson. They seem to relish the collaboration they share.

4.     They expect to win.  They don’t have the fatalism of older progressives who persuade themselves that the NRA and Republican interests are too powerful to overcome so give up before they begin.  They show us what being awake, alive, human, and compassionate actually looks like.

Dahlia Lithwick concludes that, because the students are unconstrained by our norms, they will accomplish wonders.

Diane Ravitch agrees and writes this about the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and all the other high school students across the country who stand with them:

Students care, and they are not afraid. They are idealistic. They want fairness. They want justice. They have energy. They have not been beaten down by the system. No one can accuse them of being self-interested, unless self-interest means they hope to stay alive.

I’m betting on the kids. And I’m betting on our democracy working.

The Voices Of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have forever removed three words from our language: “failing public schools”.  The critical thinking and articulateness of those 14 – 18 year old students are moving us all. There is no other way to account for the way they are changing the conversation about gun violence in this country other than to say that they have incredible intellectual skills and a work ethic that drives them to excellence.

I know what it is to experience the sudden, traumatic death of loved one. I know what it does to you when your life as you know it disappears in a moment. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have experienced that, yet they have something deep within them that is leading them to think and to act. That something is the education that their parents and their schools have given them.

There have been other loud voices in our society who repeatedly use the words, “failing public schools”. They call themselves “school reformers” and petition state legislatures to use tax payer funds to replace public schools with charter schools. Their goal is to make money for themselves and their selling point to legislatures is that we must rid this country of “failing public schools”. These self- proclaimed “school reformers”  use the term “failing pubic schools” to convince well-meaning but uninformed parents to send their children to charter schools that increase their children’s segregation and treat their children as second class citizens, incapable of individuation and critical thinking. I am sure that state legislatures would not spend taxpayer money on charter schools and parents would not send their children to charter schools without the power of the term that the “school reformers” use: ” failing pubic schools”.

The phrase, however, is not true. It is not the public schools that are failing. What is failing is our investment in addressing issues of poverty and racism.

The voices in our society to listen to are the voices of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Their articulate voices are saving future students from the horror that was theirs. Their articulate voices are changing our approach to gun violence. Their articulate voices will make us a better, stronger nation.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are showing us that they are thinkers and doers. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are using the education their families and schools gave them in powerful ways. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are not the products of  “failing public schools”. They are the products of public schools that helped them to grow and to learn and to mature into leaders.

I am inspired by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and I thank them.

Choose: Assault Weapons Or Children

This is my favorite work of art in my home.  The child’s face is full of receptivity and joy, and the mother looks at her child with delight. They are truly connected.

That painting reminds me not only of my joy in parenting my own three children but also reminds me of the joy I found in helping adolescents in my classes to fall in love with reading literature and being a writer. The painting speaks to me of nurturing. The painting speaks to me of the deep value of the kind of connection in which adults foster growth in children and delight in doing it.

But Russ Walsh, a noted educator and writer, emphatically states that we as a country do not value nurturing children, do not value that kind of connection between ourselves as adults and all the children of our country. He makes a strong argument that, as a nation, we do not, in fact, care about our children. He says:

The continued gun violence visited upon America’s schools and school children, along with the abject failure of the adults who run the country to do anything about it, leads me to one inescapable conclusion: In the United States of America, we don’t care about our children. When I say “our children” here, I am referring to children in general, not individual children. As the grieving parents in Florida today will attest, we all care about our own children. What we do not seem to care about is all the other children.

I urge you to read the whole of Russ Walsh’s piece. The three statistics he quotes will convince you of how our nation has not cared for our children. .

He goes on to say:

The only way to explain the lack of action on gun violence in the schools is that we value our right to bear arms more than we value our children. Politicians seem to be unable to even have a conversation about bringing gun proliferation under control. Our founding fathers, I am sure, did not mean for the second amendment to require that we were to remain impotent in protecting our children from guns in the hands of society’s disaffected. Surely. “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” means freedom from fear of being shot in your own classroom. Surely the right to bear arms is a limited right, just as every other right enumerated in the Bill of Rights is limited by the simple fact that the unfettered exercise of that right could endanger others. So we have no right to cry, “Fire!” in a crowded theater and no right to refuse to wear a seat belt and we have even decided to give up the right to smoke in public places. Surely we can all do without the right to carry an AR-15 around with us.

It’s time. In fact, it’s more than time; it’s way, way, way overdue. It’s time for all responsible Americans to join with the outraged students from Parkland. It’s time to show those heartbroken, articulate young people that they and their teachers matter, that the Sandy Hook children and their teachers and principal matter. It’s time to say that 239 school shootings since Sandy Hook in which 438 people were shot and 138 people killed is enough. It’s time to tell the world that the United States of America does, indeed, value everyone’s children.

A way to begin:

Please join Russ Walsh, me and educators everywhere to say that we, as a nation, will finally, at long last nurture all of our children. Come out with your neighbors, friends, and children and join the National Day of Action Against Gun Violence on April 20 (The anniversary of the Columbine shooting).

You can sign up here.