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My Turn: Changing things will take some time

Posted: December 24, 2012 - 1:04am

Like many I was content to look the other way at all the stories in the news about gun violence, thinking that nothing could ever change. For me that changed with The New Town School massacre. Watching the memorial service on TV I saw that New Town was perfectly ordinary and it could just as easily happen here or anywhere and enough was enough. As a friend said, we all need to grow up a little.

Like many I have taken notice of the project by Mr. Miller, Tarver, and Swendsen to build an indoor gun range in the valley. I wonder what that is about, particularly if it leads to some crazy automatic weapons tourist destination business. But I think that is only an indicator of the times we live in.

Mr. Polanski in his My Turn in Friday’s paper responding to the massacre says that our culture is in bad shape and can’t be fixed. I agree that our culture is sick for some of the reasons he mentions but disagree that it can’t be fixed. I think as an American you need to be an optimist that over time our better angels will prevail over our lower nature. I know already those that don’t want things to change are busy churning out statistics and tracts showing that the constitution is the inerrant word of God and changing laws is impossible. I’m not so sure about that. I’m pretty sure the constitution was written by men and has in fact been amended a number of times. We are already hearing the only way to be safe is to turn our nation into a police state with everyone armed and all buildings becoming fortresses. I think that’s nonsense. You can never win an arms race with someone willing to die to achieve their ends.

I am reminded of local officials recently talking about wants and needs and lists of priorities. For me AR15’s, sniper rifles, and all the latest to play dress up army is a want, and having your family come home safely at night is a need. There are no other priorities. The rest is just hot air. Those that don’t want things to change have great political power and plenty of treasure. It will take some time but we need to change some things.

Finally, a quote from Thomas Jefferson, who I’m pretty sure was a man:

“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects.

But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.

As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.

We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”

— Thomas Jefferson Letter to Thomas Kercheval, 1816 Library of Congress

• Barnard is a Juneau resident.

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