COLUMN: Right to bear arms worth fighting for

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On Jan, 8, 2011 my father, Douglas Leatherbury and I were driving down State Road 135 in his old reliable Ford pickup truck heading to our small Ohio River frontage farm in Perry County, Indiana. I remember twisting the knob on the radio searching for a good tune when I came across a news alert. I could hear the alarm in the man’s voice as he stated, “Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at an event she held for her constituents at an Arizona grocery.”

At that moment I remember thinking about the Honorable Congressman Baron Hill and how he used to hold similar events for constituents at the Salem Jay-C Grocery and my father’s law office. I tried to envision what must go through a man’s mind as he aims his gun at innocent beings, knowing there’s sorrow that will penetrate into so many souls as he pulls the trigger, unleashing death’s claim.

As we traveled along that Indiana road I expressed my concerns to my father, though they were not concerns of gun violence by American citizens. I told him I fear the United States government’s wretched response to this action. I fear an impulsive Congress that will enact legislation infringing on our Second Amendment right to bear arms. I foresee a government that will use this act to promote a larger, more intimidating police force. I fear they will have the wrong debate.

The questions we should be debating are: Does upholding our Constitutional laws of personal liberty and freedom justify not restricting gun ownership? Is it time for the U.S. to go back to promoting its traditional foreign policy of self determination, noninterventionism and peace? If the U.S. government follows a policy of less war and gun violence, will this set an example for the American people to follow? Could the college instructors, staff, campus security, family, friends, and peers of this mentally ill man foresee his potential danger through past experience and make sure he was not in the position to purchase a high-capacity Glock 19 pistol equipped with a 33-round magazine by exercising their moral responsibility or opportunity of intervention?

Tupac Shakur once wrote, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive.” To let the right to bear arms slowly decay because of the darkness and evil brought about by a crazed man with a loaded gun would be a tragedy. For those deaths shall serve as a reminder just how precious our short time on this earth is. Our bodies and minds are mortal, we will someday fade and pass but our ideas of freedom and liberty can continue to grow and live as long as we cherish them while we are still here. Let the quest for freedom, the goal of peace, and the love of all life restrain us from using guns, rather than a repressive government mandate. Live your life for principles worth dying for and never surrender.

Leatherbury resides in Salem.