History, History Column

“Let’s Not Be Scared, Let’s Be Prepared”

“Let’s Not Be Scared, Let’s Be Prepared”

Written by Parker A. Poodle™  ©2019


Every dog, every child needs a trusted chum, an adviser who can teach them the pees and queues.  At age 16, never did I, Parker A. Poodle a Reading Education Assistance Dog, assume a howling need to explain a despicable decade increase in gun violence.  Simply stated we must acknowledge America’s gun problem and teach children the particulars of personal and public safety.  Including the new vocabulary—words like shots fired, active shooter, dangerous someone; inform, counter and evacuate.

“Most children play with toy guns or use their hands to pretend they are holding a gun,” Rachel Schulson’s Guns What You Should Know explains.  “Have you ever wondered about real guns?…A bullet shot from a gun can travel up to 5,000 feet per second.  That means that if you and a bullet had a race, the bullet would get to the end of your block before you even took your first step…It is impossible to know exactly where the bullet will end up.”  According to the U.S. Gun Violence Archive from January 1, 2019, to September 20, 2019, there have been 40,596 incidents of gun violence, including 10,744 deaths (26.5%).    

Today a hotel (Las Vegas), shopping center (El Paso), or movie theater (Aurora); office (Annapolis, Virginia Beach), church (Charleston) or school (Columbine, Blacksburg, Newtown and Parkland) is not always a place of safety.  In October MGM International Mandalay Bay paid $800 million to 4000+ victims of the Las Vegas hotel shooting.  About 228,000 students have experienced a school shooting since 1999—Columbine.

“Let’s not be scared, let’s be prepared!” the National Center for Youth Issues, ALICE Training Institute suggests.  I sometimes worry my dog house may not be safe should a dangerous someone draw near.    

My well-tuned ears have heard the sound of gunshots.  I have walked a nearby schoolyard with Alexandria Community Police Officer Matt O’Malley not long after gunshots were confirmed.  Officer O’, a lover of Spaniels, appreciates that I am “Alert for my age;” mentally perceptive and quick.  Quick enough to know that none of my favorite children’s books—Rocket Writes a Story, The Velveteen Rabbit or Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!—reference guns.   

The Matchlock Gun, winner of the 1942 Newbury Medal, describes the Spanish Musket but only in terms of the 1756 French and Indian War. “Edward watched intently as his father struggled into the blue uniform coat that he had had made when he was elected captain of the Guilderland [NY] militia,” Walter D. Edmonds wrote.  “[H]e wish[ed] that someday, just once even, his father would take the Spanish Gun to the muster.  It hung over the fireplace…It was longer than a grown man…and more than twice the length of Edward, who was ten years old.”

Amendment II of the Constitution’s 1791 Bill of Rights states: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  The National Rifle Association, created by a group of Union officers after the Civil War, promotes only “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

“The Founders never intended to create an unregulated individual right to a gun,” Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s School of Law wrote in 2014.  “There is not a single word about an individual’s right to a gun for self-defense or recreation in [James] Madison’s notes from the Constitutional Convention.  Nor was it mentioned, with a few scattered exceptions, in the ratification debates in the states.  Nor did the U.S. House of Representatives discuss the topic as it marked up the Bill of Rights.”

“I sincerely rejoice at the acceptance of the new constitution by nine states,” Minister to France Thomas Jefferson wrote Madison in 1788.  “It is a good canvas…The few cases wherein these things may do evil, cannot be weighed against the multitude wherein the want of them will do evil.”

“In fact, the original version passed by the House included a conscientious objector provision,” Waldman continued.  “‘A well-regulated militia,’ it explained, ‘composed of a body of the people, being the best security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.’”

First Lady Dolley Madison, a quick witted Quaker, was hardly good natured when the British invaded Washington during the War of 1812.  She intervened to save an Alexandria Apothecary’s 18-year old nephew, apprentice Edward Stabler of Harewood.  Young Edward, also a Quaker, refused to join the Alexandria, D.C. militia and fight.  His objection resulted in jail.  “I gave Jimmy no rest until he ordered Edward’s release,” Dolley wrote Edward’s mother Deborah Pleasants Stabler.

James Madison, father of the Constitution, and Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, served on the Board of Visitors of the newly forming University of Virginia.  On October 4, 1824 “the board…decided that ‘No Student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or vinous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind, or gunpowder…appear in school with a stick, or any weapon…on pain of…punishment.’”   Both men, proven champions of individual rights, agreed.  Their lasting lesson is?   

Four times between 1876 and 1939, the U.S. Supreme Court “declined to rule that the Second Amendment protected gun ownership outside the context of a militia.”  As the Tennessee Supreme Court put it in 1840—Aymette v. State, 21 Tenn (2 Hump) 154 (1840)—“The words ‘to bear arms’ have reference to their military use, and were not employed to mean wearing them about the person as part of the dress.  To bear arms in defense of the state is to employ them in war.”

“To hold that the Legislature could pass no law…by which to preserve the public peace, and protect our citizens from the terror which a wanton and unusual exhibition of arms might produce…would be to pervert a great political right to the worst of purposes,” the TSCourt continued.

“Suppose it were to suit the whim of a set of ruffians to enter the theatre in the midst of the performance, with drawn swords, guns, and fixed bayonets, or to enter the church in the same manner, during service, to the terror of the audience, and this were to become habitual; can it be that it would be beyond the power of the Legislature to pass laws to remedy such an evil?” the TSCourt asked.  “Surely not.”

I, Parker A. Poodle, was born November 13, 2003.  I was surprised to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court did not rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008.

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).  A decision reached in my lifetime and the lifetime of the children I wish to reach and protect.

“The ruling in Heller represents a dramatic reversal of the U.S. Supreme Court’s previous interpretation of the Second Amendment,” the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence wrote.  McDonald v. Chicago 561 U.S. 742 (2010) followed.

The reality is such that Newtown’s Sandy Hook Promise regularly broadcasts a Public Service Announcement entitled “Back to School Essentials.”  The ALICE Training Institute communicates its message using a children’s book, I’m Not Scared…I’m Prepared Because I know all About Alice.  “We even have safety drills that we practice,” Julia Cook wrote.  (www.alicetraining.com)  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s lesson—Run, Hide, Fight is delivered via the web.  (www.ready.gov/active-shooter)

Not surprisingly the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Policy and Research 2019 survey discovered “support among gun owners and non-gunowners for more than twenty gun violence prevention policies.”  The survey “measured support for over two dozen gun-related policies and found high levels of support for most measures, including purchaser licensing (77%), universal background checks of handgun purchasers (88%), and two key elements of extreme risk protection policies, also known as ‘red flag’ laws.”  The study was published online September 9 in the Journal of Health Affairs.

The JHU Center also offers a free online safety course.  Lap dog that I am, my lady and I reviewed the JHU website together.    

On January 9, 2019, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S.66 Assault Weapons Ban, a bill which “makes it a crime to knowingly import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess a semiautomatic assault weapon (SAW) or large capacity ammunition feeding device (LCAFD)…The bill also allows a state or local government to use…Grant Program funds to compensate individuals who surrender a SAW or LCAFD under a buy-back program.”  The prior ban expired in September 2004.

Now here we are.  Ten months later S.66 and other gun control proposals languish.  The politics may be dog-eat-dog but change is needed.  Dare I, a canine command it?  We’re talking your life, maybe death!

Parker A. Poodle™ is the significant companion of columnist Sarah Becker.  Sarah started writing for The Economist while a graduate student in England. Similar publications followed. She joined the Crier in 1996 while serving on the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association Board. Her interest in antiquities began as a World Bank hire, with Indonesia’s need to generate hard currency. Balinese history, i.e. tourism provided the means. The New York Times describes Becker’s book, Off Your Duffs & Up the Assets, as “a blueprint for thousands of nonprofit managers.” A former museum director, SLAM’s saving grace Sarah received Alexandria’s Salute to Women Award in 2007. 

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