A two-hour rally was held at Gateway Park in Farmington on February 2. It was billed as an opportunity to show support for the Second Amendment. I support the Second Amendment, so that seemed like a good reason to attend. At the outset, though, it became clear that most of the participants (especially the organizers and speakers) didn't particularly care about the Second Amendment. That was just something they decided to latch onto as a way of capitalizing on confusion and ignorance so they could drive home their message of hate and paranoia.
The keynote speaker (New Mexico Sen. Bill Sharer) began by misquoting the Second Amendment. He spoke of "a well-organized militia" instead of a "well-regulated" one. When one of my elected leaders quotes a law or a right during a rally that is supposedly all about that law or right, I expect it to be quoted correctly. Many in the crowd appeared not to notice the mistake; those who focus primarily on the last part of the Second Amendment (the part about not infringing on the right to bear arms) may have preferred the re-wording. There is surely some difference between well-organized and well-regulated.
Any person who claims to support the Second Amendment without seeing the need for prudent and reasonable gun control laws is either disingenuous or misguided. A "militia" that is "well-regulated" cannot be so without control (by definition), and a country without some controls is a country in chaos. Rights come with responsibilities, and few rights come without at least some limitations. Just as our First Amendment does not extend to the right to libel/slander or threaten someone (nor does it allow us to use hate speech to incite riots), our Second Amendment does not authorize the use of 30-round clips or machine guns by the general public.
Some gun rights advocates see any regulations at all as infringing on their rights. They want no background checks, no gun registration, no limits on what constitutes an acceptable firearm and no requirements for adequate education/training. They are as against government (or what they call government interference) as they are against control. They'd prefer to not have to answer common sense questions. Isn't it better to make it more difficult instead of easier for criminals and certain mentally/psychologically imbalanced people to get possession (legally or illegally) of guns? Does the fact that there will always be people intent on breaking the laws really mean that we shouldn't have the laws? Is it not a good idea to close gun show loopholes (which, among other things, make it possible for more than 40 percent of gun transactions to be completed without background checks)?
The questions they least like to answer pertain to where the line should be drawn regarding appropriate firearms for law-abiding citizens, or if there even should be a line. Why does anyone (other than a police officer or a soldier in battle) need the kind of firepower that makes it possible to riddle dozens of people with bullets in only seconds? Does the average person need to be able to take down a helicopter or a low-flying plane? The closest that anyone has been able to come to answering these questions of "need" is to say that it's his/her "right" (or to meander off into an apocalyptic rant warning of the need to be prepared for bogeymen to swoop down on us from Washington D.C.).
Even some of our law enforcement personnel have been equally irresponsible and reckless. San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen's incendiary rhetoric included comparing liberals to sheep, praising those at the rally as sheep dogs and announcing his intention of continuing to oppose gun restrictions even if they become laws.
Like many pro-gun rallies this one would not have been complete without at least one educator who thinks teachers should be allowed to carry guns in schools, at least one slick comparison of Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler and numerous references to the tyrannical regime in Washington D.C. I hope it will be a long time before I again see so many people carrying "Honk If You Love Guns" signs, without even a single sighting of someone carrying a "Save Our Children" sign, and I hope I never again have to tell an impressionable young lad that I won't sign his petition to keep "them" from taking away our guns.
Mark A. Johnson, Farmington, N.M. Johnson's father, Jerold, worked in the Daily Times newsroom for 22 years between 1967 and 1989. His jobs included managing editor and associate editor.