Publisher’s Corner: Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness?

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, is a well-known passage in the United States Declaration of Independence. This is an example of one our “unalienable rights” as U.S. citizens which the Declaration says our government was created to protect. With all the discourse over gun violence, I was thinking about how our government does so many things to protect us and ensure those “unalienable rights” and our pursuit of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. Our government has formed armed services to keep our country and families safe from foreign invasion. So many have fought and died so valiantly over the years so that we might have a conversation about rights and freedom. In fact, statistics show 1,396,733 war deaths in the history of our country in the Revolutionary War, The Mexican War, the Civil War, The Spanish American War, The First World War, The Second World War, The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, The Iraq War as well as other conflicts around the globe. Shockingly, since 1968, there have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths on US territory. Other than suicides, less than 5% of those gun-related deaths were committed by people with mental illness. Current privacy laws make legislating mental illness as a response to mass gun killings highly improbably if not impossible. More comprehensive background checks would help. We are a country of laws. There was a time when cars could go much, much faster and passengers rode without seat belts. Little was done to stop drunk drivers. Cars used to kill more people than guns. But not any longer since automobile safety laws were written to protect us. Freedom of speech goes only so far until it incites a riot or inspires violence and a threat to others. There are limits to our rights. Laws are enacted to protect us when those limits are breached. But who is protecting the people who are killed by guns each year? We have more regulations on our cars, cigarettes, alcohol and picking up a prescription than we do for some guns. And I doubt our forefathers had assault weapons in mind when they wanted to have the right to keep and bear arms. Weapons of war should be in the hands of soldiers not citizens. A case can be made for hand guns for personal protection of life and home. There are plenty of responsible gun owners among us. But no one needs weapons of mass killing for safety or sport. The past several mass shootings have been with AR-15 assault weapons. Most of the killers were within their rights to purchase these weapons. But what about the rights of the children, men, women, teachers, first responders and others who have been killed by these people and their weapons? Where are the limits.? This is a public safety issue. By protecting one person’s rights we are failing to protect the rights of others who just wanted the right of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. And are now dead. Their families affected with grief forever. I realize there are moral, ethical and legal aspects of the gun rights debate. But after all these killings, I can only manage to come up with one answer. Money. Sadly, money is the only thing that seems to shift the minds and hearts of some. The rights of one person should not be greater than the rights of another. And for this, I feel our government representatives, who were elected to enact laws to protect us, are in fact continuing to put us and our children in harm’s way.

A vote is an answer, too! J.B. Lester; Publisher