Op-Ed: In The Fight Over Gun Control, Kids Play an Unexpected Role

As the debate over increased gun regulation splits the nation, children provide iconography for one side and revenues for the other.

boy with a pistol

Andrew Josequera, 11, prepares to shoot at a target at the Los Angeles Gun Club in Los Angeles, January 23, 2013. (Photo: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

A few weeks ago in Concord, New Hampshire, my 14-year-old sister, Daphne Jordan, attended a gun rights rally. A few hundred people crowded around the grand steps of the State House building, which with its gold dome and neo-classical design is a typically beautiful New England state seat. Daphne had written a speech. When given the chance to address the crowd, my young sister grabbed the rally by the bullhorn.

People cheered wildly at her oratory, according to my father’s slightly biased account. My sister, a still-growing blonde who runs track, is a very well-spoken teenager, it must be said.

“I was simply doing what our Founding Fathers would have wanted me to do,” Daphne told me. “When I see injustice, it’s my civic duty. When Obama used children to push gun control, I was forced to take action to set the record straight based on our constitution.”

And, evidently, she set that record straight with panache. After her speech to the rally, representatives from New Hampshire’s state legislature—the third largest deliberative body in the world after U.S. Congress and British Parliament, with 400 members—asked Daphne to address a hearing.

After school last Tuesday, Daphne returned to the capital. The conference room reserved for her presentation was overflowing. So they moved to a larger room, which also proved too small. Finally, press, politicians and public moved to the State Assembly building across the street, and Daphne read an expanded version of The Speech.

She started with her take on what she had anticipated a gun rights rally would look like.

My sister and my family are not gun owners. They don’t hunt. But they do not want the federal government further messing with their lives.

“I expected it to be all about hunters and guns,” she said to the crowd. “I was shocked. They were afraid of the government taking away their freedoms.

“If President Obama wants to take our guns, isn’t he taking away our means to protect our right to freedom?

“So I ask myself, what gun would our Founders want their citizen militia to have today to protect us from a government greedy for power. I think Thomas Jefferson would recommend a semi-automatic rifle with 50-round clips, and pistols that hold 20. But, I’m sure George Washington would demand these arms."

It’s difficult to know exactly what Jefferson and Washington would think. But as the gun debate reaches Congress this week, it’s important to look at states like New Hampshire—with Libertarian tendencies, a Live Free or Die motto and an advanced political culture—to understand the arguments against further regulation.

New Hampshire has the lowest murder rate in America. In the past decade, the state averaged 10 to 20 murders per year within a population of 1.3 million. Consider this: The city of East St Louis, Illinois, population 27,000, has about the same annual number of murders.

As much as I would like, for the sake of pleasant family dinnertimes, to agree with my sister’s reading of the Constitution, I don’t and I can’t.

A recent TakePart story I wrote about Chicago teen rappers killing one another is an example of why I can’t accept handguns or assault rifles as basic human rights. When I read the 2nd Amendment, I see an outdated provision about muskets. If every man were entitled to the tool of American liberation, we’d all get nukes at birth, right?

But my sister touched on a universal truth by speaking out: “I learned what it is to be an American citizen, to speak up and tell the truth. You can’t just let your country take your rights. This country was built out of action-orientated people. And I wanted to take action. I was able to exercise my right of free speech. Everyone was 30 years or more older than me, and I’m the voice of a new generation. People think we’re all about Facebook and haircuts or something—but I was there honoring the social contract of citizenship and to let them know our nation won’t die and that someone still understands what it is to be American.”

When asked if the other side is entitled to the same rights of free speech, Daphne agreed, but with a caveat: “The other side has a right to voice opinion, but not to take our rights. The executive is there to enforce law, the legislature is there is to write them, and the court is there to make sure they’re constitutional. Obama is pushing a political agenda,” she added. 

Later in the week, New Hampshire hit national headlines when its Association of Chiefs of Police announced, of all things, a gun raffle giving out 31 weapons, including a Ruger SR-566C semiautomatic military style rifle. Police giving out assault weapons to raise money for more police is a bit weird, if not fully tone deaf, given the national mood after 20 children and six adults were shot dead at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Then there was a Sunday New York Times cover story detailing the gun industry’s marketing pivot targeted at kids my sister's age and younger.

“Threatened by long-term declining participation in shooting sports,” the Times sums up, “the firearms industry has poured millions of dollars into a broad campaign to ensure its future by getting guns into the hands of more, and younger, children.”

My sister and my family are not gun owners. They don’t hunt. But they live in a peaceful state, one that is not in debt or suffering from high unemployment. They do not want the federal government further messing with their lives. And it makes sense framed from the ’shire’s endless forest, lakes and mountains. In this glorious New England setting, my sister’s classmates aren’t gunning one another down.

On the streets of Chicago, where guns are killing more than 500 people—half of them children—a year, things are different. There, guns are part of the problem. In New Hampshire, there is no major problem. Both perspectives make sense.

But this American is going to disagree with his sister.

Protecting the Constitution and basic freedom is an important American concern. Protecting human lives is a universal one.

These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.

Do you and your family have any differences of opinion on how to control gun violence? Spell them out in COMMENTS.

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