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HAGER: Defending the 2nd Amendment makes me cringe

• Feb 22, 2018 at 2:00 PM

I wish I could write a sweet column about the current rainy weather and how it makes the grass almost glow it’s so green, how I hunted for spring flowers today and found tender green shoots coming up; found hope. I wish I’d gotten my edits in sooner on my last column. I wish that it hadn’t gone out to you so harshly critical, so angry.

But here we are.

Seventeen people were murdered last week; 14 of them were students just like our kids. Those families are burying their loved ones this week, somehow grappling with an overwhelming grief as they contemplate a life, next Christmas, a birthday, without their kids.

There was a teacher, Scott Beigel, who stopped to usher kids from the hallways into his classroom and was shot standing in the doorway.

There was Aaron Feis, a football coach and security monitor who died trying to protect the kids from one of their own, another student.

Christopher Hixon, the school’s athletic director, also fell.

In just minutes, the shooter (who deserves to be named and prayed for as a beloved child of God), Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people. And I wonder how many more must die. I wonder when this despair comes for us, I wonder when our number is up and we’re the ones flooding our churches with tears at funerals for young lives, when we’re the ones who have lost a friend or spouse who died trying to protect our kids.

When a person says they have a right to keep and bear arms because of the Second Amendment, I confess to feeling angry.

There is a way of looking at ancient texts called hermeneutics, when we apply this method we look at what was happening when a text was written, who it was written to, and the context; what had happened immediately before or after. If we apply this concept to the Second Amendment, which was adopted at the end of 1791, we see that the amendment is very similar to the English Bill of Rights from 1689. If we look at what was happening in young America and England, we see that the English were afraid that their king could disarm his subjects after James II had attempted to disarm many Protestants.

The Revolutionary War had ended not even a decade before the Second Amendment, and was meant to enable the people to organize a militia, to participate in law enforcement, to deter a tyrannical government and to repel invasion. To be fair, there was also a concern about hunting down escaped slaves and self-defense. I see armed law enforcement, we have a tyrannical and unethical governing system, though the same folks who become rabid when their right to keep and bear arms is questioned seem to be the same ones who support that government. We haven’t been “invaded” by anyone but refugees lately; which leaves hunting down slaves, self-defense and the organization of a militia.

The issue, though, is that I don’t see an organized militia. What I see is white men and boys armed to the teeth with weapons the creators of that amendment never could have envisioned. What I see is these men and boys gunning down church-goers, Bible studies, concerts and our schools.

While America is culturally very different from England or Australia, the arguments that guns don’t kill people, or that what we have is a mental health crisis, don’t hold water. I’m not sure Americans would participate in a buy-back program if one was offered, but the statistics speak for themselves. Our mental illness is no more than other developed nations, but those nations haven’t had a shooter in a school in a very long time; in fact, the last time they did the people and the government ended the right to own most firearms. Nikolas could not have caused the same bloodshed and death with a knife or a car or a baseball bat.

When a person says they have a right to own any type of weapon, what I hear is that their supposed right supersedes my kids’ right to go to school safely, in a non-militarized zone. What I hear is that an old amendment meant for something entirely different has been twisted and funded by the NRA buying out politicians left and right (literally) means more than the lives of our kids. What I hear is the same male voices believing they can tell a woman what to do with her body, insisting that because I don’t understand the ins and outs of every kind of firearm I am not qualified to have an opinion. Funny, last time I checked, men couldn’t become saddled with an unwanted or dangerous-to-their-health pregnancy, and yet they seem to have the right to speak their minds and make laws based on their personal opinions.

You should know that our children are rising, a seething mass of fear and hormones and passion. They are organizing and planning; they will not be stopped or silenced. They will not go to school in fear, and they will not accept fear or bigotry as a way of life. Even now, rallies and walkouts are planned. Before the next presidential election many of the students who are organizing today will be of voting age; millions, in fact.

Change is coming. And I am with them.

— By Alicia Hager, Tribune community columnist

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