The Slippery Slope of Slaughter

By James R. Parker

The bill to make Wisconsin a “second amendment sanctuary” sponsored by Senator Felzkowski is unwise, unnecessary, and ultimately dangerous in the extreme. Her obsession with citizens ability to conduct armed resistance to an “overreaching government,” apparently such as the January 6th attack on the US Congress is at the base of this insanity.

I first fired a revolver when I was 8 years old, 72 years ago. My brother, ten years my senior, persuaded my father to allow him to build a target consisting of a 2 inch slab of iron 18 inches square in the basement of our home on the west side of Chicago in 1949. My brother owned a 44 caliber cap and ball revolver which, though reasonably accurate, was the loudest, most foul smelling weapon you can imagine. I cannot recall how my mother did not stop this enterprise or how my father, a very traditional, cautious and conservative individual, was persuaded to allow this activity. But it was, however dangerous, great fun and we did not put a hole in the basement wall. Incidentally, this was the same brother who a year earlier experimented with the theory that a cherry bomb which exploded under water in my mother’s cement laundry tub, would be harmless fun while, in fact, it blew up both side- by- side laundry tubs. So much for credibility. Anyway, the point is that I have been familiar with firearms for seven decades as both a target shooter and earlier, a hunter. Over the years I have owned or kept 18 firearms, mostly handguns ranging from a Colt 45 model 1911 down to a .22 caliber Ruger, and three rifles of various caliber and three shotguns. With the few I still own I enjoy target shooting and retain a degree of dexterity and precision. The point is that I know and enjoy firearms in a way that puzzles some members of my family and friends.

Now to the most important point. No liberties guaranteed under the first or second amendment are absolute. There is a “reasonable person” standard that constrains freedom of speech and assembly freedom of religion and the press. We accept some limitations based upon what “reasonable people” agree to be true. That same set of limitations should be applied to the second amendment, like the first amendment, should be subjected to the community standard of what is reasonable. But it appears that protections of the second amendment have reached a point where they have become unreasonable guarantees of individual access to the most destructive weapons utterly unrelated to hunting or target shooting and predicated apparently on the crazy assumption that we must be prepared to resist an authoritarian abuse by government using individual militias. That is the stuff of craziness and a vast majority of reasonable people agree that is true. However advocates for unlimited access to weapons, industrial producers of those weapons and a crucial number of jurists apparently do not agree and fear the “slippery slope” of gun control. The only slippery slope we are on right now is the slippery slope of slaughter which takes place on a daily basis all over the United States and bears no reasonable relation to the guarantee of access to weapons as as ensconce in the second amendment. Remember, 40,000 American citizens die each year from gun shots and only 1% of those are the dramatic mass shootings utilizing military style automatic weapons; the balance are gun deaths by handguns., 60% of which are suicides and the vast majority committed in private homes by someone the victim knew. Of course the AR 15 style combat weapons should be eliminated, but the larger issue of the proliferation of handguns will challenge our imagination and resolve. Improved and universal background checks, an end to unregulated “gun shows” and the private party sales that elude all checks, regulation of the small but damaging number of illegal gun dealer sales, all only a start to reducing the carnage that will take a century…but then I’m 80 this year so it does not seem unreasonable to start to be “reasonable people.”

James R. Parker lives in La Crosse and is Professor Emeritus, UW-La Crosse Departments of History; Ethnic and Racial Studies; Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, 1968-2003. He also served as the chair of Wisconsin State Council on Affirmative Action from 2005 to 2015.

Top Photo: Wisconsin State Senate Chambers, from The Official Photo Tour of the Wisconsin State Capitol.

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