Note to readers: Jonathan Swift published "A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick" in 1729.
* * *
In walking or driving through both the countryside and cities of this great nation, it has become impossible to ignore the growing piles of unarmed citizens in the doorways and classrooms of our schools, shopping centers and even the odd movie theater. Even if one is in no way acquainted with these former persons, now lying dead, both singly and in groups, the very sight of this much death intrudes upon the senses and has spoiled many an outing which might have otherwise passed with pleasure, satisfaction and learning.
These many dead, struck wherever they were found by the better-armed among us, inhabit every corner of the country. They are shot on either coast and in the heartland as well. The Bible Belt and the breadbasket alike have been treated to this unpleasant sight, accompanied by the lamentations of the grief-stricken, who forever remain shocked and startled, no matter how common these scenes become.
These shot persons are also not in any way selected by class or breeding or even age. Lately they have included persons aged as young as 6 and old as 50. The well-off are no better off than the not-so-well-off; when shot they become equally dead. In all the ways one classifies Americans nowadays -- age, race, gender, religion, wealth, sports affiliation -- nothing is singular about these dead but one thing: They are, much more often than not, unarmed.
Therefore the argument is far beyond the reach of any rebuttal that the number of the unarmed among us has grown unacceptably large -- this despite the recent reduction of their membership. A problem of this type and size cries out for a solution, which brings me to my proposal, which, though modest, will almost certainly be equal to the task of more drastically reducing the number of unarmed Americans than has been achieved by other means.
My proposal is this: We must, by the authority of the federal government -- acting perhaps through the agency of a trusted third party such as the National Rifle Association -- require the ownership and carriage of at least one (1) firearm by every United States citizen.
The first effect of this proposal is most attractive in its simplicity. The mere possession of a firearm instantly changes an unarmed citizen into an armed one, immediately reducing the number of the former and increasing the quantity of the latter, improving both the total number and proportion of each.
The second effect, while somewhat more complex, will nonetheless achieve indisputable results. As more citizens enjoy access to deadly force, the opportunity for conflict with these weapons will increase. It does not take a great thinker to understand that most such conflicts will be resolved to the disadvantage of the unarmed, which will further reduce their number. This effect is obviously less efficient than the first, but will nonetheless make a significant contribution.
My proposal will doubtless meet with some objections, mainly from people who promote among the public a sense of apprehension about the possibility of being shot. I assure the public that these unpleasant voices will be decreased as my proposal is implemented, and will, eventually, be quieted by those of us with greater wisdom.
As is always the case, especially among the conservative castes, the cost of such measures will raise troubling questions, in addition to the tag-along complaint about expanding the role of government. To the latter, I suggest that this proposal actually grants more individual power than it takes, and those who doubt it have never fired a Glock 9mm into a pumpkin. And for those who are thrifty, as we must confess the times require, I suggest that we use the tax code to assist citizens with their provisions. If it is moral to encourage the production of human children (which we now do through the mechanism of an $800 annual deduction per child) then it surely is moral to provide them with the means for their own defense. To do any less would be unthinkable.
Which brings us to the issue of the children, who are overrepresented in the ranks of the unarmed. Educators with knowledge of the topic have rightly pointed out that young people often lack the intellectual capacity to use a gun dependably and the physical ability to use one effectively. (We have seen how badly they drive!)
However, I am assured by an old friend with considerable experience that military innovators in places such as Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo have techniques at their disposal to produce fully trained soldiers aged as little as 10 years. Though, owing to the richer American diet, our youth are somewhat less fit than their African counterparts, my friend sees no reason why our children could not do the same. It only remains a great surprise that our nation has allowed someone else to take the lead.
But for children younger than this, it is prudent to acknowledge the limits of handling complex weapons. In regards to this problem, I have received advice from kindred souls in certain territories who have trained the very young in the use of simple but effective explosive vests which require very little skill to operate. Of course, on our more civilized shores, further discussion will be required where the consent of parents is a question.
Again, I do not doubt that this proposal will have its opponents, and our democracy provides generous room for dissent. But in these times of turmoil and grief, I caution against the ugliness of blame that follows so many tragic events in our great nation.
Thankfully, my proposal, in addition to other benefits I have described here, offers a solution to this as well. As long as we have unarmed citizens, it is easy to blame those with weapons for shooting and killing those without, and the removal of this excuse will be, perhaps, the greatest moral advantage to implementing this plan without delay.
When we are all as fully armed as it is possible for every American citizen to be, those who are shot will be able to hold only themselves responsible, either from the lack of a weapon or the ineffective use of one.
In thus turning from blame to responsibility, I urge us all to share the memory of that great American, Charlton Heston, who told us, "You can have my guns when you pry them from my cold, dead hands."
There has never been a better time to do exactly that. He is dead, and we need all the guns we can get.
Joe Pastoor is an English teacher and writer living in St. Louis Park.