As we continue to be in shock from the data revelations we are learning just how much society had changed since my growing up in the years of the baby boom. Back then, technology was limited to that black phone plugged into the wall. It required an operator for a long-distance call. We also had a black-and-white television, and colored television only began in the last years of the ’50s. We thought high-fidelity record players with vinyl records brought us into the jet age.
In those mid-century days there certainly was a possibility that your phone could be tapped, but it would mean either putting a “bug” in your house or the government visiting the phone company to attach equipment so they could monitor conversations. It certainly had to be done on a case-by-case basis and could not be done to millions of people at once.
People were not glued to their handhelds, and people actually had conversations without checking for email and text messages during dinner. Most folks knew their neighbors and knew the neighborhood they lived in. Except for cars and telephones and electronics such as radio and televisions, people lived in communities much as they had when our founders wrote the Constitution. Families had dinner together and even radio and television were enjoyed together. The revolution of personal devices and computers had not taken hold.
Why is this important to understand? It is important because society has changed so profoundly due to these devices. We no longer need to talk to our neighbors for conversation. Now they can use Twitter and other social media without having to even pick up that telephone and dial a number. Back then, if someone wanted pornography, they would have to travel to get it. Now it is a few keystrokes away. None of this was available or even imaginable when our founders wrote the Bill Of Rights. It is because of these huge changes that it is time to look again at what these mean in society.
Clearly, privacy as the founders understood it, has gone away. No one dreamed that every interaction we took could be recorded. People wrote letters or talked in town squares or at home. Now much of what we do is on computer. Privacy is a concept that has gone by the wayside. Courts and Congress, and hopefully citizens, now realize that laws must be looked at and perhaps interrupted in a different manner. Right or left, most people agree that at the very least we need to discuss and debate privacy in light of new technologies. This is getting to be the important discussion and revamp of the laws that have become this decade’s imperative.
But what about gun possession? Does that need to change? I would argue yes. In the early years of our country, people thought they needed guns to obtain some of their food and to defend themselves, especially from the tyranny of government.
Now, we purchase food from the grocery store, and if the government wants to get us they have drones and tanks. How about guarding our person and homes? Depending on whose research you want to quote, guns can help or actually hinder.
Mass shootings have now increased. This week, families of people killed in Newtown read names of those killed by guns in the last six months. Six thousand and three names were read.
The question is, why have there been so many multiple shootings? Could this also have something to do with technology? Video games? Isolation? More realistic and violent television and movies? The ability to write vitriolic emails anonymously?
My theory is yes. We don’t know neighbors, and we now live in a virtual world where violence has come into our homes and bedrooms via HD video and television and games. The Second Amendment was written when there was real community and before isolating technology. We know it has changed our communities and families, has it also changed our brains?
Given these realities, it is time to look at both of these issues, the “right to bear arms” and “privacy,” and assess what they mean and what we need to do with each of these in the context of the 21st century. The times have changed, and we need to update our laws and policies to reflect those changes.