Earlier this year, South Carolina representative Alan Clemmons proposed that gun education in public schools be mandatory. His assertion was that a three-week class could cover gun safety, second amendment history, and the constitutionality of gun-control legislation. Other states like Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming have proposed that concealed weapons on K-12 campuses is a great idea. Mixing guns and children sounds like lunacy to me, but I may be in the minority on this. Yet another mass shooting has brought up more talk of gun control—leading to the same anti-regulation talk we hear every time a bunch of innocent people are murdered for no damn reason.
Gun education in schools may earn the NRA more empathy as children are taught that being surrounded by guns is healthy and normal. But how could education result in safer gun use? People already know, for example, that guns should be kept out of reach of children. But far too often, they aren’t. Maybe the fear that makes people arm themselves leads them to want the gun at their side at all times—even around the house. Maybe it’s simply laziness. Whatever it is, it probably isn’t because people aren’t aware of the basic rules of gun safety.
Let’s compare, for a moment, the 1st Amendment and the 2nd. The 1st Amendment gives us freedom of speech, of the press, and of/from religion. The 2nd says that the right to bear arms is part of a well-regulated militia, and shall not be infringed. If you’re not familiar with militias, they are groups of citizens that go through training and education in order to be prepared for when, if you’ll pardon the coarse language, shit goes down. Free speech relies on the use of language—something we’re all taught in school. K-12 education involves native-language study in every grade, from learning the alphabet to basic reading comprehension—all the way through creative writing, research papers, and debate tactics. Everyone learns this. It’s mandatory, just like some think gun education should be. And yet…
Ten minutes on Facebook, Twitter, or any article comment section will show you that people do not use these learned skills to the best of their ability. The grammar on social media is largely appalling. Sure, there are people who use their native language responsibly, beautifully, artfully even. But there are those who are offended at even the suggestion that they try to use good grammar. A so-called Grammar Nazi is someone who thinks an adult should be able to read and write their native language at the approximate level of a 13-year-old or better. Your own social media feeds are likely to vary as to the percentage of people who know how to read and write correctly. But most of you probably see grammar gaffes (not counting autocorrects and simple typos) at least every day.
Presuming that the 1st Amendment is at least as important as the 2nd Amendment, doesn’t that mean that despite being given 12+ years of free grammar lessons, that some people simply can’t be bothered to use language properly? Unlike guns, language is something we actively use every day. So it’s not like we’re rusty because we haven’t spoken in a while. Language is one of the most important tools we have to manage our environment. Yet some will insist on waving it around like a gun they didn’t realize was loaded. Hint: Always assume any gun you see is loaded. That’s one of the rules.
No, we shouldn’t strip people of their right to free speech because they’re misusing it. Though America does limit free speech in many ways that can be connected to gun violence. It’s illegal to threaten to murder someone, or to otherwise incite violence. Lying about someone with the intent to cause harm can result in steep civil penalties. And while they arguably shouldn’t, law enforcement does indeed detain, arrest, and assault protestors on a fairly regular basis. One badly phrased Tweet can lose someone their livelihood, or make them almost lose their TV show. Try to suggest that certain people (stalkers, domestic abusers, felons, etc) shouldn’t be allowed to have guns anymore, and see the kind of social media responses you get for that. Now, note the grammar being used in these responses.
Some people can absolutely be trusted to handle guns safely, and to speak and write their native language effectively. Just like many gun users are not irresponsible, paranoid, or trying to start a race war. So which demands greater regulation? It may seem strange to draw connection to, essentially, two very different things, but the policing of both in consideration of American law is handled similarly. While speech is, and always has been incredibly powerful, but the one that can go off accidentally and kill someone when dropped should be subjected to harsher restrictions than the one that doesn’t.