The Second Amendment: Too Much Right, Not Enough Responsibility
The Constitution is an odd document. It outlines civil rights for all American Citizens, but in every case tried before the Supreme Court, the rights outlined in the Constitution have not been found to be absolute. The First Amendment has reasonable limitations, the Fourth Amendment has reasonable limitations, the Fourteenth Amendment has some limitations, but there seems to be a peculiar blind spot in some American popular opinion as to the Second Amendment. People give many reasons that they feel the right to keep and bear arms should be sacred, but responsibility goes with every right and the consistent body count of unintended consequences on the evening news can no longer be blithely swept away as ‘collateral damage.’ There are not enough responsibilities mandated by law in the United states to mitigate the human cost caused by firearms today.
In fact. more people have died of firearm-related injuries in the United States since Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 than in every war the United States has ever engaged (Shields). The numbers are staggering. According to the Congressional Research Service and iCasualties.org, the number of deaths in all major conflicts involving the United States is 1,171,177. According to a paper published by the CDC in 1994, and adding data from the FBI through 2011, the number dead from domestic gunfire is 1,384,171 (Polifact). These numbers take into account every firearm death, rather justified or unjustified under the law.
In addition, in some states, loose or poorly enforced open carry laws seem to be encouraging Second Amendment ‘purists’ to run roughshod over the rights of others. In Dallas, Texas, a group of four women members of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (MDA) were having a meeting at the Blue Mesa Grill when forty members of Open Carry Texas (OCT) drove up and started getting guns out of their trunks for a protest of the group (Lee). The restaurant manager feared calling the police to have the armed group removed. People were afraid to leave the restaurant. Although it is illegal to carry openly in Texas, no tickets were issued, or charges were filed.
Open Carry Texas also continued to make the news with their posting of a woman’s name and personal phone number in a YouTube video when she called 911 to report a group of OCT members waving around their guns on an overpass in Fort Worth(Sanders). There is, of course, some of the usual sanctimonius claptrap about illegal 911 calls going on in the comments section. Others, however, are very clear about their sympathies for the woman who called and are supportive of her right to feel safe in her town and home (Sanders).
More specific regulation could prevent some incidents from happening. Mandated education on firearm safety including the relevant state law and the same use of force paradigm that law enforcement is taught could keep homeowners from shooting people in the head when someone knocks on their door following a traffic accident in their neighborhood or shooting up a car full of teenagers playing loud music at a gas pump, neither of which presented any kind of deadly threat under the law (Desmedt). Mandated biometrics are becoming a reality now, which the gun lobby is fighting, but which offer tremendous safety advantages in that children won’t be able to shoot each other in their parent’s kitchens, but firearms will be accessible safely and easily to the gun owner in case of emergency need, and will not be easily usable by the proverbial bad guy (Monks). Comprehensive background checks for all firearm purchases-even private purchases-will help keep firearms out of the hands of people who truly shouldn’t be allowed to have them including perpetrators of domestic violence. Periodic qualification will at least ensure that firearm owners can perform to a reasonable standard in a controlled environment. We expect this of military and police forces, civilians should not be exempt from certifiable legal and technical knowledge of a tool that is meant only for killing.
The United States is the laughingstock of the civilized world because of it’s love affair with guns (Dionne). After Sandy Hook, the world was in shock that our government didn’t immediately act, confiscate the guns of US citizens, and revoke the Second Amendment (McVeigh). National studies show overwhelmingly that women in abusive relationships where a firearm is present, even if they bought that firearm to protect themselves, have a 12% higher chance of dying by firearm violence then women whose abusive intimate partners. There is also a much higher chance that they will kill innocent third parties such as children or innocent bystanders. (Karan, Stampalia). There is also the problem of ‘straw’ gun purchases, in which a person with a clean background makes a gun purchase for a person with a prohibited buyer. This could be closed by instant registration, on-site biometrics, mandated firing pin tattooing, mandated ballistics testing, or mandatory education and licensing prior to a firearms purchase. People would be much less likely to jump through expensive hoops to buy guns for someone else then they would be to buy a gun for themselves.
Second Amendment purists believe that any new restrictions on firearms are completely unacceptable and will most likely refuse to obey them, at least in the short run (Knox). Some gun control opponents cite fear of ‘government tyranny as their main reason for supporting vaguely limited gun rights (Welna). Some feel that they need a gun to defend themselves, the sentiment made famous by Wayne LaPierre of the NRA in his statement “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” (Cervantes). People believe that licensing or registration of firearms will end with the police rounding up and confiscating firearms, and many stories of this happening during World War II in Nazi-controlled areas are bandied about as proof (Valone).
Education and licensing are required to practice many professions, drive cars, and keeps certain types of animals including all dogs and cats within most city limits. One must prove that one has enough education to practice as a physician, prove that one has enough expertise to drive a motor vihicle, and at the very least make sure that one has one’s pet vaccinated for rabies yearly. It’s not much of a stretch to mandate licensing and education for a weapon whose only function is killing.
The notion that one can fight off the United States government, or defend oneself from government tyranny in this day and age is frankly absurd. The U.S. Government has plenty of tools at their disposal that would be more than effective at dealing with a ragtag civilian group that has stockpiled some guns and ammo. A quick look back at the results of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas in 1993 should answer any questions about how such a ‘rebellion’ would play out (Frontline). That the American military will defect en masse to the side of the rebellion is wishful thinking that shouldn’t be entertained.
Frazier Glen Cross shot three Jewish people in Kansas City, Kansas on April 13, 2014. He had a long-term history of being involved with hate groups. He had been involved with the KKK, and after breaking ties with them, founded the White Patriot Party. A convicted felon, he should have never had access to a firearm, but was able to obtain his guns through a ‘straw buyer’. He reportedly asked people if they were Jews before he killed them. He can be heard on video shouting “Heil Hitler!” after he is put into the police car
The curious case of Cliven Bundy is one that should be mentioned here in the sense that it touches on many different aspects of this paper. There were some Second Amendment purists involved, some Militia members involved, and some state’s rights/land rights groups involved with the Bundy movement. The bare bones of the issue were that Cliven Bundy stopped paying grazing fees for the land he had been grazing his cattle on twenty-three years ago. In that time, he has been taken to court by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) multiple times, and has been fined, refused to pay the fines, and refused to show up in court. The BLM eventually started seizing his cattle (Ford). Several far right wing groups, including Richard Mack, the former Sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, showed up to support Bundy. Mack, apparently the strategist for the BLM, wanted to put women in the line of fire (Moye). His idea was to gain sympathy by using women as human shields and having the federal agents shoot the women on national television first (Moye). The BLM management returned the cattle and withdrew, giving the Bundy camp something to celebrate, but the situation was not over. Eventually, the Bundy situation ended with another protest in Oregon in which Bundy was arrested with his two sons and other militia members. There was one death. The government wasn’t going to be tricked into another Ruby Ridge or Waco by Bundy, and was certainly not going to be tricked into shooting a group of defenseless women on national television.
Antoinette Tuff also throws a wrench in the works of Wayne LaPierre. In 2013, in DeKalb, Georgia, a young man walked into the Ronald E. McNair Discovery School where Ms. Tuff works. He was carrying an AK-47 rifle and started shooting. The situation could have ended in terrible tragedy, but instead, Ms. Tuff responded in empathy, compassion, and love. She talked him into surrendering. No one died. There was no “good guy with a gun.” There was just Ms. Tuff who talked Michael Hill into putting down an AK-47 rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition, and not getting himself and possibly a lot of other people killed.
Gun grabbing or widespread confiscation is not the answer. A comprehensive program including mandated education with biannual updates, yearly qualification, licensing, registration, biometric unlocks, and liability insurance should be implemented for the good of society as a whole. Unfortunately this solution is going to price some people out of the firearm market. It’s not a perfect solution. As long as there are firearms on the street, there’s going to be a black market for firearms, there are going to continue to be accidents, there are going to continue to be problems. It’s possible to make it better. It’s possible to cut down on the carnage. Children are not acceptable losses. Teens playing loud music at gas stations or knocking on doors after having car wrecks are not collateral damage. It’s time to stop and look at what the Second Amendment is truly buying us, and if the price is worth the cost.
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