I have to be frank here. I’m tired of talking about guns.
Not just here on this blog, but everywhere. I have been an advocate for common sense gun control for a really long time – by my count, at least 35 years. I was pushed to the issue when Someone was killed in what used to be called a “random shooting.” A friend of mine was sitting at a traffic light, stopped, when a bullet rang out and they were killed. The randomness made me think a lot. According to our Constitution and the other laws of this country, we all have a right to life, but how much of a right to life is there, if you can be sitting at a traffic light and be killed by a stray bullet? That doesn’t seem very free.
The most frustrating aspect of the gun “debate” in this country is that it seems as if it’s a contentious one, when it really isn’t. The reason it seems contentious is because one side is arguing about one thing and the other is arguing about something completely different.
You see, there is only one side to the gun debate, NOT TWO. The main question is as follows:
“How do we handle the right to bear arms in a way that keeps the American people as safe as possible.”
There is no doubt there’s a right to keep and bear arms, so take that off the table. The Second Amendment exists, and given the difficulty of amending the Constitution, it is unlikely we will ever repeal it. Nor do we have to. Here is the text of the Second Amendment:
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.
Now, there is nothing straightforward about this one. In this context, “well-regulated” means “well-trained,” but even if you want to “bear arms” for personal protection, that “shall not be infringed.”
However, many gunloons (meaning those who put guns above God and family) believe that means they should be able to carry any “arms” they wish. I mean, if you want to disregard the first part of the Second Amendment, fine; there is still nothing in there that guarantees you the right to bear any type of arms you wish. More importantly, each section of the Constitution does not work independently of all others; the entire document is a section of the US Code and the entire US Code works together. And in the body of the Constitution, in Article I, you find this:
The Congress shall have power to…
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Now, since the 14th Amendment was ratified, “The Congress” is now “the government,” but the above is very clear. The government has the power to regulate anything related to “the militia.” In other words, while the government can’t completely ban all guns, they can absolutely set the rules for owning and carrying them. They never have, but it’s time they did.
There are a handful of people who think the solution is to repeal the Second Amendment, but that would be damn near impossible. You’d have to get two-thirds of Congress to pass a new Amendment, and you’d have to get 37 states to ratify it. Good luck with that. I can count 15-16 states off the top of my head who will NOT ratify such an amendment, and more than 13 states would keep it in limbo, along with the ERA, forever. (Leave it to left wing extremists to recommend the hardest and most impossible method for fixing the gun problem, over everything else. It’s what they do.)
Of course, as noted, such a thing is unnecessary. There is nothing in the Second Amendment that guarantees anyone the “right” to buy and keep any weapon they choose. And, like I said, the government has the power to set conditions for purchase and ownership, and they get to tell gun owners what they can and cannot carry at a given time. We can have the same rules and regulations as any other country with a much lower gun death rate. Even in the US v. Heller case, which was written by right wing gunloon Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court acknowledged that states, municipalities and even the federal government could regulate guns. The only thing they can’t do is ban all guns altogether, as Washington, DC was effectively trying to do.
In other words, we can do a lot more than we do, and we don’t have to repeal the Second Amendment to do so. And we have to do a lot more.
If you’re not embarrassed by our record on guns and gun deaths, you’re not paying attention. Last November, CBS News posted the following chart (source):
As you can see, of all countries whose societies compare with ours, our firearm death rate is a hell of a lot higher. Ours is 50 times higher than that of the UK. It’s nearly five times higher than Canada and ten times as high as Australia’s. And lest you claim “they don’t have guns,” you would be wrong. Canada and Australia have guns, especially Canada, they’re just not obsessed with them, is all. In Australia, for example, as long as a gun is registered and the owner is licensed, anyone can have a gun. However, there has to be a reason for it; you can’t just compile an arsenal of weapons because you think they’re cool. It is also necessary to keep everything locked in a gun safe down there, and you can’t buy bullets and magazines as easy as here. In Canada, anyone can own a shotgun or a handgun, as long as it’s registered and the owner is licensed. Again, it’s not that you can’t have a gun; the difference in the countries that have almost no gun deaths is, they treat the guns as if they are potentially dangerous and they work to protect the owners and everyone the owners may come in contact with.
Our argument has to be that guns are inherently dangerous in the wrong hands, and that we, as a nation, have to take steps to protect the American people from those who would abuse them. We can ban certain types of weapons that only have a legitimate military use. In fact, we already did that in 1994 when we passed the assault weapons ban. And the number of gun deaths did drop significantly after that. In other words, the argument that bans don’t work has been proven false, not just in other countries, but here, as well. More than 20 years ago, Australia has a mass shooting and within months, they passed a ban on assault weapons and bought back those already in circulation. Since then, they have had no mass shootings, while we have almost one per day. We can’t claim we have done everything we can to prevent gun violence when we have done almost nothing, and the few things we have tried have worked.
We are a different country and our laws prevent us from going as far with our gun laws as some of the other countries in the above chart. However, we can do a lot more than we do. And there is no excuse not to. The Second Amendment doesn’t create an unlimited right; no constitutional amendment does. We have to register all guns and license all owners, if for no other reason than to make sure everyone who carries a gun is qualified and has the skill to do so safely. We can handle guns like we do cars; I think we can all agree that no one is being denied access to a car for transportation purposes, but we are all safer because everyone on the road has demonstrated at least a minimal competency.
Our argument is pure common sense. The other side’s arguments are the opposite of common sense, and they really have nothing to do with creating a society where we can live with guns. This is why I say, the reason the gun “debate” seems so contentious is because the two sides are not discussing the same issue. I don’t want a complete ban on all guns, nor do most people. And yet, the gunloon argument is all about us taking away their guns or preventing them from getting any gun to protect themselves and their families, which almost no one is proposing.
The “other side” makes so sense. They claim measures like background checks don’t work, which is easily provably false. Tens of thousands of people per year are prevented from buying a gun, as-is, and the system needs to be improved, to make it more likely to screen out those who shouldn’t be allowed to carry a gun. They also claim an absolute right to own a gun, which is ridiculous. As noted, even the Heller case, which acknowledged an individual right to bear arms for the first time, did acknowledge the government’s right to set conditions for gun ownership. The pro-NRA gunloons also claim every regulation we recommend is insufficient for stopping all shootings. On that, they’re probably right. But we endure 30,000 or more gun deaths every year; a law that trims that number by 10 percent would save more than 3,000 lives per year, and if we combine a few of them, we could cut the number in half. That’s 15,000 fewer deaths, and about 100,000 fewer injuries every year. That is certainly worth it.
They also claim there isn’t a will to change gun laws and reduce the carnage, which is also absurd. Following the shootings of 20 babies and 6 teachers at Newtown Elementary five years ago, more than 90 percent of Americans polled were in favor of universal background checks. And a new poll from Quinnipiac suggests that even more Americans than that want stricter gun laws. (Source) That includes 97 percent of Republicans. Overall, at least 70 percent of Americans have finally figured out that we have a bigger problem with mass shootings in other countries and two-thirds are in favor of stricter gun control right now.
We have to simply stick to our positions. We want better and more effective gun control because it saves lives. It’s proven. We are tired of listening to arguments that don’t actually address the issue. That’s why we have been led to believe this issue is so intractable and can’t be solved; we’re arguing logic and common sense, and the other side is arguing against something else.
Also published on Medium.