Uncommon Sense – The Siwiec Report by Ron Siwiec
“The rifle on the wall of the laborer’s cottage or working-class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”— George Orwell
America has always been a country of frontiers. Founders landed on a New England rock — the starting point of expansion across a three-thousand-mile-wide continent, from Atlantic to Pacific. At its widest point, the mother country – England- is a mere 320 miles wide.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, America was a frontier nation that beckoned stalwart individuals and families, in the words of newsman Horace Greeley, to “Go West.” Massive westward expansion continued after the Civil War. Americans responded and pushed out into the wilderness – the unknown. A 20th century president issued a challenge that extended the frontier beyond the planet. Challenging America to shoot for the moon, John F. Kennedy reminded us that we choose to do things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
In the 18th century, going West meant pushing out from a civilized Albany, New York to the barely tamed central region of the state – to the Mohawk Valley — James Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Country. Later, the push westward meant Ohio, and beyond that… the Mississippi. It was ‘hard’ indeed, and the seemingly endless expanse of foreboding, but
promising wilderness became the cauldron for a uniquely American pioneer experience. Don’t Tread on Me, Go West, and Manifest Destiny incubated the undeniable American character; for better or worse, an I came, I saw, I conquered spirit would dominate the collective consciousness and become part of the American ethos; part of the American DNA.
Whether through land rushes or grindingly harsh sojourns by wagon, intrepid Americans, forsaking past lives, risked all for a chance to stake their claim to a piece of Colorado wilderness or the ultimate prize – California and the Oregon territory.
There was a wilderness to cross; a forbidding expanse of rivers, mountains, and searingly unforgiving deserts, which would claim, men, women, children, and their beasts of burden. The Oregon, California, Mormon, Santa Fe, and Old Spanish trails were routes taken by 18th century immigrants. They were spurred to travel westward by economic incentives, and for many to find religious liberty and freedom from persecution. One of every ten travelers would perish due to disease, malnutrition, injury, or bad weather. Those who survived, colonized the West, and opened the land for millions who would follow.
They took their guns. A rifle was a necessary trusty companion. It was a physical and psychological hedge against hazards, human and animal, which lurked in the vast unknown. They traveled a virgin land. The benefits of civic authority – law and order – were scant. A sheriff or marshal, if available, was days or weeks away. You were on your own. There was no policing within reach.
Whether traveling in a family group or part of a wagon train, a person was responsible for his own safety. If someone threatened to steal a rifle, he would have to pry it from cold dead hands. If you decided to set out on the Santa Fe or Oregon Trail without a gun, you were a fool. Today, if you are setting out on the L.A. Freeway or driving to your office in NJ, and you are armed, you are either a fool or a criminal.
Does one have a right to a carbine, Ruger, Glock, or AR15? There is a second amendment, which currently guarantees that right. It is part of the Constitution, our binding social contract. It is “the right to bear arms.” However, carefully note that those who armed themselves back in 76’ were toting muskets; not the kind of weaponry that accounts for the bloody mayhem witnessed in our cities today.
The archetypical American is the pioneer, lured into the deep forest. American culture has not allowed the gun to become a vestige, an appendix affixed to our civic body. The gun maintains its status as a talisman, an object imbued with magical powers, to protect the individual for whom it is made. But the L.A. Freeway is not the Oregon Trail, regardless of what Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Cena or Grand Theft Auto would have us imagine.
Men still hunt the woods, partly to express the primeval/frontier DNA that has made Americans Americans. The problem is not with hunters acting out of some primordial urge. They have that right. Although some females are hunters, they are the exception. The beckoning romance of the hunt is fueled by testosterone. It is a manly pursuit. Whether Masai or Missourian, a boy’s confirmation to manhood requires slaying a beast, with spear or through a high-powered scope. (Modern rifles and precise magnification technology offer the hunter a lopsided advantage over their prey, essentially negating any definition of modern hunting as a truly sporting venture)
The hunter sports his rifle. His prey is game. The slaughter in the woods means food for the table, without having to visit the market meat counter. Though it is a bloody pursuit, it is not lawless or immoral. If you eat meat, someone had to kill it for you first.
The problem we face in our ‘civilized’ society, is not from hunters of game. It is with hunters of people. Millions of Americans hunt responsibly. Hunters do not bag their limit with Rugers, Glocks, or other pistols, which are the weapons of choice in the killing fields of South Chicago).
It is ironic that the persistent call for gun control comes from the Left – from the Hollywood establishment and video game producers who profit by insidiously keeping murder and mayhem front and center in the American consciousness. Hollywood has created a new weapon that is the perfect instrument for misfits who shoot up schools, workplaces, and entertainment venues. That weapon could be labeled the ‘resolver.’ It is used by malcontents and misfits to settle scores by destroying their perceived enemies.
The militia referred to in the second amendment was an armed citizenry – Minutemen, standing ready to protect their sovereignty. The British were at the door. Militiaman Paul Revere warned the people of danger. They responded with muskets. Today, misfits are at the schoolhouse door with arms the founders could not have imagined in 1776.
Yes, there are too many guns in this country. Reasonable gun control is necessary. So are preemptive mental health services for lunatics. The roots of our murder problem, our carnage problem, are manifestly of a psychological and cultural nature. The problem will not be solved overnight, and it will not disappear without action, social and legislative.
However, the problem dear friends is not with our guns, it’s with ourselves; ultimately with who we are as Americans.