“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.” - The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America
When I read the second Amendment, I am drawn to the phrase “well regulated“. For me “…well regulated” in the second Amendment, suggests more than anything that The Founders are products of their time, and the right to own a gun, comes from the fear of that time. Fear of tyrannical government prominent during the tumultuous years of the American and French Revolutions. Mass slaughters in the Colonies, and news of slaughters at the Tuileries in Paris whilst trying to overthrow a tyrannical government, shaped the sentiment of fear prominent when this amendment was created. The right to own a gun, isn’t an inherent right, it is a right that can be placed entirely in context of the time. Made out of fear. It must be revised, for the context of today. The social and economic context today, of a land with 300,000,000 people, with an indescribably powerful defence sector; is not in anyway the same as the social and economic context of the time of Thomas Jefferson. It isn’t an America of small farming communities threatened by an overbearing British Empire. Jefferson, or Madison, or Hamilton, or any other Founder, could not have predicted where America might be today, with it’s gang culture, and its assault rifles, and how certain Amendments harking back 250 years, might be exploited.
As well as the Amendment being firmly rooted in 18th Century fear, the use of the word “militia” in the 2nd Amendment, must affect the word “people” in the 2nd amendment. For me, the word “militia” means that the word “people” becomes a collective body, and not the right of each individual to own firearms. Therefore, the 2nd Amendment speaks of a collective gun holding responsibility. Perhaps a place where guns are stored, kept safe until a well regulated Militia is needed to protect themselves as a collective. And so then you have to ask, when will America ever need a well regulated Militia on a State level, given the strength of their military?
“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” – The National Rifle Association
I’ve always shuddered at that NRA phrase. It’s a horrible argument designed to shut people up, because it’s superficially true in sentiment. Of course people kill people. Of course the gun doesn’t decide to kill all by itself. But it’s a tool used for the prime purpose of killing. A knife, is not designed specifically to kill. Neither is a car. A gun, when used correctly and responsibly, is used to kill. A gun, when used incorrectly, and irresponsibly, is used to kill. The design is purely to kill. To create an instrument designed purely to take life, and not have very strict controls, seems both absurd and dangerous. The latter, is proven time and time again.
According to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, you are five times more likely to die as a result of a gun attack, than you are as a result of a knife attack. Not only that, but according to the Department of Justice, one in every eight violent crimes, involved criminals carrying hand guns at the time.
The level of gun ownership – that is, arming everyone, to defend themselves, against…everyone – is directly related to the number of deaths by gun fire.
During the firearms amnesty in 2003, following the 1997 ban on handguns in the uk; 43,000 guns were handed in. That’s 43,000 less on the streets. That follows the amnesty directly after the two 1997 Firearms (Amendment) Acts, which resulted in 162,000 guns being handed in. Do I feel safer with almost 200,000 guns less on the streets? Absolutely. In the US most gun related deaths, are carried out by those who legally own the gun. That, is horrendous.
Now, the 2nd Amendment was written as a way to arm citizens against government tyranny. If we are to use the same argument today, we must be consistent. If the big bad Obama administration violently decides to invade Alabama…..a few citizens with semi automatics aren’t going to be much use in defending the State. They are going to need to be as armed as the Federal Government. I look forward to the NRA calling for the right of citizens to be armed with chemical and biological weapons, F16s and nukes. For the sake of consistency….. which I know, isn’t something the Right are famed for. ‘Arms’ in the 2nd Amendment refers to Nuclear weapons, just as much as it does to semi automatics, just as much as it does to 18th Century Muskets.
In 2008, there were over 12,000 gun related murders in the US. Comparatively, in 2006 in Japan…… total gun related murders…… 2. When guns have such harsh controls, that hardly anyone has one, the death by gun rate doesn’t rise (as the US neo-con’s appear to think it would)… it falls dramatically. Japans law is polar opposite to the 2nd Amendment in the US. In Japan, the law states:
“No person shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords.”
- As industrialised countries go, when it comes to gun control, Japan is doing it right.
In contrast, here are a list of mass killings as a result of an archaic obsession and misreading of the 2nd Amendment in the US, since Columbine, put together on Think Progress
December 11, 2012. On Tuesday, 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts killed 2 people and himself with a stolen rifle in Clackamas Town Center, Oregon. His motive is unknown.
September 27, 2012. Five were shot to death by 36-year-old Andrew Engeldinger at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, MN. Three others were wounded. Engeldinger went on a rampage after losing his job, ultimately killing himself.
August 5, 2012. Six Sikh temple members were killed when 40-year-old US Army veteran Wade Michael Page opened fire in a gurdara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Four others were injured, and Page killed himself.
July 20, 2012. During the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO, 24-year-old James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58. Holmes was arrested outside the theater.
May 29, 2012. Ian Stawicki opened fire on Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle, WA, killing 5 and himself after a citywide manhunt.
April 6, 2012. Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, shot 5 black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in racially motivated shooting spree. Three died.
April 2, 2012. A former student, 43-year-old One L. Goh killed 7 people at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, CA. The shooting was the sixth-deadliest school massacre in the US and the deadliest attack on a school since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
October 14, 2011. Eight people died in a shooting at Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, CA. The gunman, 41-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai, killed six women and two men dead, while just one woman survived. It was Orange County’s deadliest mass killing.
September 6, 2011. Eduardo Sencion, 32, entered an IHOP restaurant in Carson City, NV and shot 12 people. Five died, including three National Guard members.
January 8, 2011. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head when 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire on an event she was holding at a Safeway market in Tucson, AZ. Six people died, including Arizona District Court Chief Judge John Roll, one of Giffords’ staffers, and a 9-year-old girl. 19 total were shot. Loughner has been sentenced to seven life terms plus 140 years, without parole.
August 3, 2010. Omar S. Thornton, 34, gunned down Hartford Beer Distributor in Manchester, CT after getting caught stealing beer. Nine were killed, including Thornton, and two were injured.
November 5, 2009. Forty-three people were shot by Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. Hasan reportedly yelled “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire, killing 13 and wounding 29 others.
April 3, 2009. Jiverly Wong, 41, opened fire at an immigration center in Binghamton, New York before committing suicide. He killed 13 people and wounded 4.
March 29, 2009. Eight people died in a shooting at the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home in Carthage, NC. The gunman, 45-year-old Robert Stewart, was targeting his estranged wife who worked at the home and survived. Stewart was sentenced to life in prison.
February 14, 2008. Steven Kazmierczak, 27, opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University, killing 6 and wounding 21. The gunman shot and killed himself before police arrived. It was the fifth-deadliest university shooting in US history.
February 7, 2008. Six people died and two were injured in a shooting spree at the City Hall in Kirkwood, Missouri. The gunman, Charles Lee Thornton, opened fire during a public meeting after being denied construction contracts he believed he deserved. Thornton was killed by police.
December 5, 2007. A 19-year-old boy, Robert Hawkins, shot up a department store in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, NE. Hawkins killed 9 people and wounded 4 before killing himself. The semi-automatic rifle he used was stolen from his stepfather’s house.
April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech became the site of the deadliest school shooting in US history when a student, Seung-Hui Choi, gunned down 56 people. Thirty-two people died in the massacre.
February 12, 2007. In Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square Mall, 5 people were shot to death and 4 others were wounded by 18-year-old gunman Sulejman Talović. One of the victims was a 16-year-old boy.
October 2, 2006. An Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA was gunned down by 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts, Roberts separated the boys from the girls, binding and shooting the girls. 5 young girls died, while 6 were injured. Roberts committed suicide afterward.
March 25, 2006. Seven died and 2 were injured by 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff in a shooting spree through Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA. The massacre was the worst killing in Seattle since 1983.
March 21, 2005. Teenager Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend before opening fire on Red Lake Senior High School, killing 9 people on campus and injuring 5. Weise killed himself.
March 12, 2005. A Living Church of God meeting was gunned down by 44-year-old church member Terry Michael Ratzmann at a Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, WI. Ratzmann was thought to have had religious motivations, and killed himself after executing the pastor, the pastor’s 16-year-old son, and 7 others. Four were wounded.
July 8, 2003. Doug Williams, a Lockheed Martin employee, shot up his plant in Meridian, MI in a racially-motivated rampage. He shot 14 people, most of them African American, and killed 7.
September 15, 1999. Larry Gene Ashbrook opened fire on a Christian rock concert and teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. He killed 7 people and wounded 7 others, almost all teenagers. Ashbrook committed suicide.
July 29, 1999. Mark Orrin Barton, 44, murdered his wife and two children with a hammer before shooting up two Atlanta day trading firms. Barton, a day trader, was believed to be motivated by huge monetary losses. He killed 12 including his family and injured 13 before killing himself.
April 20, 1999. In the deadliest high school shooting in US history, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. They killed 13 people and wounded 21 others. They killed themselves after the massacre.
- How many more need to be added?
According to Cukier and Sidel (2006) The Global Gun Epidemic. Praeger Security International, The gun deaths per 100,000 of the population of the United States, in a 2001 study, was 3.98. In comparison, Italy, Switzerland, Canada, Finland, Australia, France, England, Wales, Scotland, and Japan combined came up to less than the USA. Why? Why is this the case? Well, a weak interpretation of the Constitution is of course one reason, perhaps add to that an underfunded mental health sector, along with a for-profit healthcare system in general, we also know that economic inequality plays a large part in violence. This graph shows homicides per million, in relation to economic inequality. Just look at the US.
Only a change in attitudes can put this right. The Right Wing of America has to acknowledge the sheer hypocrisy in the voices shouting pro-life sentiments whilst advocating the joys of one of the biggest killers in the Country. Countries with strict gun control laws, and a more equal income distribution have fewer deaths. Liberals must be far more willing to fight the cause, and to educate people on the dangers of weak gun control, because shouting “we need gun control” on its own, doesn’t work. There needs to be informative campaigns against gun ownership, tougher sentences for those convicted of gun crime, make guns less accessible, reduce the supply of guns, and most of all, there needs to be a real careful look at whether the context of the Constitution – with its fear of a Red Coat invasion – might not quite be interpretable the same way today. Use common sense. The NRA’s slogan is nonsense. However, so is the naive liberal notion that immediately outlawing gun ownership, will solve a Nation’s gun crime problems. All it would do, is promote the growth of a new black market, and then you have a whole new problem on your hands.
The Bill of Rights 2nd Amendment was ambiguous because it had no idea what the future might hold. It cannot be claimed that the 2nd Amendment protects the right to carry an assault rifle. The 2nd Amendment does not give the right to all Americans to keep a gun in their homes, but similarly, it does not say that Americans must not keep a gun in their homes. The framers left it up to the Democracy of the future to come to their own conclusions. This, is the genius of the American Constitution, but also it’s failing.
Gun ownership is no longer about protecting the Nation against a tyrannical government – the very reason it was included in the first place – It is now about protecting each other, against each other, because one of the two parties might shoot first. That is the legacy of lax gun regulation. One big social cold war, against each other.
Today, in Newtown Connecticut, a man has shot and killed at least 18 small children. It is a tragedy beyond any human comprehension. My heart goes out to the families of the victims this evening. I cannot begin to fathom the unimaginable grief that they must be feeling. It is horrendous.
There has been a lot of talk that today isn’t the day to be politicising gun control. I disagree. Today is absolutely the right day to be politicising gun control, as a matter of urgency. It is also the right day to be discussing the failings of the mental health system. In a week’s time, everyone will be talking about the ‘fiscal cliff’ again, and suddenly the passion for progress withers away. Days like today are preventable. Do not let anyone tell you that a killer will go into a school and kill children whether he has a gun or not. That simply isn’t true. “Politicising” sounds like a terrible word, but it is, in reality, the people looking at a situation, and asking how to stop it happening again.
Yesterday, in Michigan, lawmakers passed a law that allows people who have undergone eight hours more training, to carry concealed guns into a school, day care centre, bar, or sports event. I am horrified by this. The arguments for this disgusting little law, is that maybe if teachers are armed, the killer might be stopped early. What happens if the killer is a teacher? And in a bar? Mixing guns and alcohol? Really? What if the teacher, in the panic of a killer on school property, shoots, and misses, and hits someone else? The moment one person dies as a result of the passing of this law; the Republican legislators of Michigan who voted for it, have blood on their hands.
I just don’t see why anyone would take the chance, in allowing a weapon designed solely to kill, to be concealed and carried in a school. It is truly horrifying.