I'm going to take a look at some of the arguments about guns, both for and against their spread in our culture, and weigh in on them with my thoughts and ideas for where we should go from here, in the wake of yet another mass shooting. As most of you know, I'm primarily a Democrat, but I actually do support gun ownership. I also enjoy firing guns, I think it can be a lot of fun. I don't own a gun myself, but I have family and friends that own guns. Personally I would like to own a gun for home protection, but my wife does not want me to have a gun in the house in case our son gets his hands on it. Like most debates on issues, I think there is clearly a middle ground solution that we can agree is in the best interest of all moving forward.
|Guns seized by Mexican police that originated in the U.S.|
To start any examination of gun control and gun rights, we need to take a look at the gun laws and their history here in the US. That look starts with the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution. We all know how that goes, right? "The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." At least that's the text of the Constitution that is most frequently quoted, especially by the NRA and its supporters. However, that is not the full text, and by omitting the full text, we are missing out on some key ideas behind gun rights.
The full text of the 2nd Amendment is as follows:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Continue reading after the jump ---->
That first line of the 2nd Amendment is pretty important. If it wasn't important, the founders wouldn't have had to add it to the amendment. First off, what jumps out at you is the term "well regulated." This seems to mean that regulations are okay. In fact, it refers to being highly disciplined and trained, such as the training a militia soldier would undergo during their military service. Next comes the term "militia." Remember, the US had just finished fighting the British for our independence. During that fighting, each state called up their own militia, which consisted of everyday people such as farmers that happened to own guns. Since the nation didn't have a large federal army, these militias did a lot of the everyday fighting. Having gun ownership was key to the security of our nation, because the militias would be called up again in the event of future wars. That's why the congress passed the Militia Acts of 1792 as well, right around this same time. Those acts of congress conscripted every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 45 into the state militia for their local state, and in the event of war, the federal government would call up these conscripts to fight for the country. Basically, it's like the modern National Guard, where local units can be activated by the government when needed, except back in 1792 it wasn't voluntary but mandatory. Also mandated by the federal government in the 1792 Militia Acts was that every able bodied man must purchase a rifle or musket. (Hey, the founding fathers liked mandates! How's that historical irony taste to those of you that say Obamacare was unconstitutional?) So, back when the Constitution was written, having every able-bodied male own a gun was a necessity for our nation, as they would be needed in times of war if England ever decided it wanted to try and get its colonies back.
Nowadays, the branches of the military do all of the fighting for our country, and real state militias are a thing of the past (with the exception of the far right wing extremist groups that call themselves militias). Also, weapons for the military are standardized and given to the soldiers by the government so that all soldiers are fighting with the same equipment. Can you imagine the logistical nightmare of each soldier in the Army having to buy their own weapon? We'd have so many different calibers of guns that keeping everyone with ammunition would be impossible. So, right off the bat, you can see why those that are pro-gun leave out the first sentence of the 2nd Amendment when they are quoting it and instead focus on the "shall not be infringed" side of the equation. The first sentence makes the intent of the founders kind of murky, and murky doesn't go over well in sound bites.
In the days after the Aurora shooting, I came across a few other soundbites that got thrown around. I think the one that annoys me the most is "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." This has to be one of the dumber arguments that a gun advocate can use. While yes, technically, guns are incapable of killing on their own, as they require a human to pull the trigger, guns make killing other people significantly easier than any other method conventionally available to the public. Colorado shooter James Holmes would not have been able to wound or kill over 70 people if he was armed with a sword or a baseball bat. Because guns are so much more efficient at killing other human beings than any other method available to the public, the statement that guns don't kill people, people kill people is actually an argument in favor of gun control. Steps should be taken that the most powerful sorts of guns are kept out of the hands of the wrong sorts of people.
In addition to that argument against gun control, I was also exposed to the "government needs to enforce existing rules, not add new ones" argument. My counter to that is, "why can't the government do both?" Who says it's an either/or proposition?
That being said, this is my proposal for what needs to happen in this country in terms of gun control, to make our nation a safer place for all. Some of these laws are on the books already in some states, some are not, but all should be considered.
1. Enforce existing laws
This should be blindingly obvious and go without saying, but the government needs to do a better job of enforcing the laws on the books as they already stand. This would require drastically improving the funding of the ATF, something that the NRA opposes out of fears the ATF will come and take away citizens' guns.
2. Reinstate the assault weapons ban
In 1994, congress passed an assault weapons ban. Weapons such as the AR-15 assault rifle, wielded in Colorado last week, were banned. Unfortunately that ban had a provision that called for the law to expire in 10 years, and the Congress in 2004 failed to renew the ban. Assault weapons have no purpose in civilian hands. These are tactical weapons that should only be carried by members of the military or law enforcement. They are designed for one purpose: to bring death to whoever you are shooting at. This is why they are used by the military and law enforcement.
|There's no kill like overkill|