“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.” — Second Amendment to the United States Constitution
Yeah, we’re going to do this.
When I read that, I read, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” as an actual state-organized military — and given it was the late 1700s and practically everything was an attempt at state-by-state governance, the framers likely meant that phrase as something akin to our modern-day National Guard and not a group of chubby white guys in a rural pasture slamming Busch Lights and pretending Red Dawn is upon us.
I also always chuckled at the right to “bear Arms” part, as it makes me think of the Family Guy episode, where they spoof that “Of course it’s clear: Every American has the right to hang a pair of bear arms on their wall. How could that possibly be misconstrued?”
Back on topic: What actually qualifies as a “well regulated Militia?” There is no one consensus, obviously.
According to former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger (nominated by President Nixon in 1969 and serving until 1986): “The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies — the militia — would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”
In retirement, Burger argued that the sale, purchase and use of guns should be regulated just as automobiles and boats are regulated — because those kinds of regulations would not violate the Second Amendment. Even though, by definition, an amendment is change and can be changed. The framers said exactly this, that as time went on and laws needed to be changed it should. And they have. We went from 10 universal laws in this country to now 27 — including a set of laws once banning alcohol production and sale, and then another one reversing that order. Changing the constitution is simply constitutional.
For continued context from Burger: The meaning of the clause “right of the people to keep and bear arms” could not be understood apart from the purpose, setting and objectives of the draftsmen.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs: “At the time of the Bill of Rights, people were apprehensive about the new national government presented to them, and this helps explain the language and purpose of the Second Amendment. It guarantees, ‘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 need for a State militia was the predicate of the ‘right’ guarantee, so as to protect the security of the State. Today, of course, the State militia serves a different purpose. A huge national defense establishment has assumed the role of the militia of 200 years ago.
“Americans have a right to defend their homes, and nothing should undermine this right; nor does anyone question that the Constitution protects the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting anymore than anyone would challenge the right to own and keep fishing rods and other equipment for fishing. Neither does anyone question the right of citizens to keep and own an automobile. Yet there is no strong interest by the citizenry in questioning the power of the State to regulate the purchase or the transfer of such a vehicle and the right to license the vehicle and the driver with reasonable standards. It is even more desirable for the State to have reasonable regulations for the ownership and use of a firearm in an effort to stop mindless homicidal carnage.”
The whole “stop mindless homicidal carnage” still speaks a lot today, 30 years after Burger originally said it.
When the founders drafted the constitution, their best firearms shot 1-2 bullets a minute. Today, weapons and ammunition that can pump 45-plus rounds a minute are available for purchase with minimal to no background checks. The firearms have evolved, and gun laws should evolve with them.
I’m not alone in this. Prior to the most recent devastating mass school shooting in Texas, which left two teachers and 19 children in grades 2-4 dead (and another 15 injured), a survey showed that 92% of all Americans (from all political parties), support universal background checks. The American people want change. Full stop.
Yet the GOP has, time after time, opposed any gun reform laws, thanks in part to the millions each senator and representative has made from the NRA and gun lobby.
Just last year Texas lowered the age at which someone could carry a handgun to 18.
Salvadore Ramos, born in North Dakota before moving to Texas, legally purchased a semi-automatic rifle the day after he turned 18. Within the next three days he bought another rifle and ammo. Exactly one week after his first gun purchase, he would go on a rampage at an elementary school in yet another mass shooting that rocked the country.
Ramos, it is reported, was angry teenager but with no police or mental health records, and thus easily passed the minimum background check. He was a recent high school dropout, often got in fights at school as he was picked on for his lisp. He also recently moved out of his mother’s house to live with his grandparents after a series of arguments, with the last straw that she turned off the Wi-Fi. On the day of the school shooting, his grandmother had confronted him about dropping out of school and not graduating, which made him mad so he shot her in the forehead, stole her truck, crashed it through a barrier at the school, shot at members of the public nearby, got past an armed security guard, and entered the elementary school where his very grandmother used to work.
Ramos was killed on scene more than 90 minutes later, and the tragedy now stands as the third largest school shooting in United States history, behind Virginia Tech (2007, 33) and Sandy Hook (2012, 26), and ahead of University of Austin (1966, 18), Parkland (2018, 17) and Columbine (1999, 15).
After he entered the school (wearing a type of tactical vest), he barricaded himself in a classroom and pumped so many children full of bullets so ruthlessly that their parents had to come in one at a time hours later to be given DNA tests just to identify the victims, because the bodies were unrecognizable.
This is horrifically disturbing.
The tragedy came 10 days after a shooting at a Buffalo grocery store, where a maniac white supremacist drove multiple hours with the intent of murdering as many minorities as possible with his own AR-15 style rifle. Why did he do it? He’s worried about “White Replacement Theory”, a Tucker Carlson and Neo-Nazi conspiracy plan that accuses the political left of weakening and replacing the white majority population with minorities in order to win political office.
The fact that Carlson is still allowed to have a job in prime time to speak such drivel says more about his entertainment company than himself. If you watch Fox News, you have to remember they are constantly lying and skewing everything thrown in your direction. In order to defeat multiple lawsuits, they have argued in court that they are not a news organization, but an entertainment channel. I can attest to that, because it’s basically a slightly-less satirical form of the Onion. Carlson himself said, under oath in court, that none of his viewers should believe a word he says, because what he does and says is for entertainment only.
Yet here we are, with a follower citing Carlson personally as a source of inspiration in a 100-page manifesto before going on a racist, murderous spree. Oh look, a gullible person turned to hate and evil.
After the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, Carlson was blaming Ramos’ mental health. In fact, all of the gun lobby and GOP spewed the same talking points: “It’s not the guns, its mental health, dummy.”
Continuously deflecting, incident after incident.
Over the past 23 years — since the 1999 Columbine massacre in Colorado — the answer to stopping school shootings has never been to regulate guns, let alone ban them, much of the thanks to the NRA. Schools have added law enforcement officers (trained for their entire career for these very situations), developed lockout drills, added extra security measures like entryways, locks and deterrents — and yet these incidents still keep happening. They want to ban books that use words like “diversity”, because that’s too harmful, but they want to arm teachers as yet another safety feature in case the barricades, door locks and SROs fail.
We literally had people arguing at school board meetings — looking like fools to much of the rest of the commoners — that mandating masks to children amidst the greatest pandemic in 100 years in order to slow a deadly disease would be too traumatizing to the children, while most of those same people don’t bat an eye at the actual traumatization of children practicing lockdown and active shooter drills in those very schools.
We’ve added all sorts of deterrents, and yet these incidents happening.
It’s happening at churches and other places of worship. And grocery stores. And parks and concerts and birthday parties.
Blame mental health all you want. Blame the widening polarization of our politics. Blame the lack of God in schools, or poor parenting, video games and movies or any other number of things.
In all of these shootings there is one constant denominator: Easy access to high-powered firearms.
The answer isn’t to send thoughts and prayers. The answer isn’t to come up with extra procedures for school administrations, students and teachers to implement and practice. No, it’s to regulate firearms.
Background checks with a waiting period. Passing a test showing the understanding of safety and use of the weapon (AKA, a license). Registration of the weapon with yearly renewals like our vehicles, and notifying authorities of private sale of said weapon. Insurance on the weapon, in case it is discharged and injures or kills someone, or damages property (think a 3-year-old pulling it out of mom’s purse). There should be laws for safe, locked storage. There should be strict laws against carrying a weapon that is not yours — punishable by years, if not a decade in prison.
There should be buy-back programs, which are incredibly popular. Sacramento recently held one, and handed out gift cards for gasoline purchases. They ran out of gift cards in 45 minutes there were so many guns brought in.
Mass shootings are practically an America-only occurrence. There are fringe events around the world that happen once or twice a decade, and those countries take charge right away in stifling copy cat acts. (After the Uvalde shooting alone, there were two incidents across the country the next day thwarted.)
Other first-world countries also have problems with mental help (though they all have universal health care), and yet, a mass shooting is an extraordinarily rare occurrence in most of these places. In 1996, in Port Arthur, Australia, 35 people were killed and 23 wounded by a gunman, and in almost no time the country restricted access to firearms. Since then? Just one mass shooting, when a family of seven was killed in 2018. In the 25-plus years since the gun control adoption, firearm deaths has dropped dramatically.
Country after country has done practically the same thing, and they have all had the same results. America is the outlier to the rest of the world.
The United States has by far the most guns of anywhere else in the world. As of 2017, per 100 citizens, there were 120.5 guns. That number has surely gone up, as the NRA and gun manufacturers see a boost in sale in guns and ammo after every major incident. In that same 2017 study, Pakistan had 22.3 guns per 100 people, while Mexico is at 12.9, Russia at 12.3 and China at 3.6.
Across the world (200-plus sovereign countries), only 15 have a higher rate of violent gun deaths that USA’s 3.96 per 100,000, with 10 in Central and South America, led by El Salvador (36.78) and Venezuela (33.27). Philippines (8.05) was the lone Asian country, while Iraq (6.29) was the only one in the Middle East higher. In Africa, Cape Verde (6.11), Lesotho (5.54) and South Africa (5.28) all had higher rates of gun deaths.
Norway, Romania, Iceland, Indonesia, Oman, South Korea, Singapore, China, Japan and the United Kingdom are all less than 0.07 gun deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. That’s seven deaths per 10,000,000 citizens. If America had that rate, we’d average 245 total gun deaths per year instead of 13,860. That’s more firearm deaths in this country than the City of Monroe has people.
In fact, in 2020, gun deaths replaced automobile accidents as the No. 1 killer of young people for the first time since records began being kept. Yeah, that really happened.
In 2000, motor vehicle deaths of people ages 1-24 years killed just under 14 per 100,000, while gun deaths were just over half that rate at about 7. In 2007, seatbelt laws and safe-driving initiatives swept the country, and the crash fatalities plummeted. In 2014, firearm deaths for young people were just shy of 7 per 100,000, but over the past six years have risen to more than 10. Vehicle fatalities are just over 8 per 100,000.
Over the past few years, as the political spectrum has become more and more polarized, we’ve had discussions on police brutality, on continued racial targeting, and attempts by paramilitary militias to overthrow government officials in attempted coups. All of those have deserved (and still deserve) their own conversations and actions.
But here, in this moment, it is time that our politicians actually work together to put in some sensible, reasonable restrictions and reforms on firearms.
— Adam Krebs is the editor of the Monroe Times. He can be reached at email@example.com or 608-328-4202 ext. 18.