Sean Davis examines the debate surrounding the Second Amendment and takes a measured approach to a much-needed solution, one that aims at lowering the abhorrent U.S. gun violence statistics.
Two days ago, an armed and angry, self-proclaimed “militia” took over a federal building in my home state, and sometime during this same weekend President Obama met with the United States Attorney General to talk about how he can use executive action to change the gun laws in our country. Think on this. The Second Amendment, in its entirety, is one sentence: “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.”
Gun owners across this country are going to lose their minds over any suggestion to change the Second Amendment, and this is funny because the word “amendment” by its definition means change. Common sense suggests a change knowing our Founding Fathers created the law when the most technological firearm available was the muzzle-loaded single shot ball musket with bayonet and wouldn’t have foreseen our gas operated, air cooled, magazine fed, semi-automatic, shoulder fired assault rifles, but others would say that hardened soldiers would have realized that the tools of war would evolve. Either way, societies, cultures, and countries change over time, shouldn’t the laws that govern them?
Even suggesting that it might be a good idea to reexamine our national gun laws because of the thousands of innocent people who die every year creates an us-versus-them mentality, but the numbers say that 52,524 incidents of gun violence happened in our country last year, 13,327 people lost their lives to guns, 693 were children under 12 (according to the Gun Violence Archive who change their statistics according to police and news reports). Doesn’t true patriotism mean protecting our citizens from threats both foreign and domestic?
Listen, I spent thirteen and a half years training as a light infantryman in the U.S. Army with three big deployments: a revolution in Haiti, the war in Iraq, and the biggest natural disaster this country has suffered in the last hundred years during Hurricane Katrina. I’ve won awards for what I’ve done including a Purple Heart. Light infantry meant we walked into some of the most dangerous situations in history carrying weapons and as much ammunition our rucks would hold. In Iraq, I carried a shotgun for breaching doors and clearing tunnels, a scoped M4 for outside and far away, and an AK 47 I stole from an Iraqi Air Force general’s house. I walked miles in destroyed cities and Third World nations defending the weak and protecting people who couldn’t do that for themselves with a rifle in my hand.
Today, I own one of the dreaded AR15s, which is the civilian version of the M4 I carried all my years in the military. I know the usefulness of a gun and won’t pretend I don’t. I’ve pulled the trigger on people and had the trigger pulled on me. After patrolling the wards of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I know if we finally had our big quake up here in the Northwest I might have to use these Second Amendment rights to protect my house and family during the chaos that will ensue afterward.
I’m not a soldier anymore. I teach college and I start every class by talking about current events because it gives us something to write about and, I believe, to educate someone you need to inspire an interest in what’s going on in the world so they can come up with their own views. As you can imagine, gun control comes up often. I always ask how many of the students own firearms and, on average, a third of their hands go up. Then I ask how many received training from an outside certified third party before they bought or used their guns and almost all of their hands go down. Other times I’ll ask who went through a background check and I’ll get the same result. Most the time they were given their gun or rifle from a family member and received little or no training on it afterward. Why is it un-American to insist that they are trained on these weapons?
This knee-jerk belief that if we want to change an amendment it means we want to remove the right to bear arms is ridiculous and manufactured by the higher-ups at the NRA. Why are we so upset about having to register our weapons or having to educate ourselves if we choose to own a firearm? If I want to own a dog, I need to register it with the city and state because it might bite someone. If I want to build a tree house for my daughter, I need to get a permit with the city and county. If I want to work a chainsaw while fighting fires in the summer, I have to take a class and get certified. If I want to drive, I have to take a test, get a license, buy insurance, and get it registered. But if I want to own a gun that is especially designed to kill other people, I don’t have to do any of this. Why? What is the problem? When I ask these questions I get similar answers:
We shouldn’t have to be on a government database because then if they don’t agree with me they can target me and take my guns because the Second Amendment is all about being able to rise up as a well-regulated militia against all evil, foreign or domestic.
I hate to break it to you, but you’re already on several databases, and if you vote Republican then, congrats, you voted for the people who just extended the government privacy right violations and they want to extend it to the metadata collection too. They know what you’re buying, they know your search history, they know all about you, and they don’t care. If they wanted to use information to zero you out as a political dissident, they only have to go as far as the memes you post on Facebook.
Oh, and if you think you can rise up as a part of some well-regulated militia and overthrow the government, you better get a tank or two and maybe an Air Force. I know. I’ve put well-armed and well-regulated political dissidents down before as part of the government you think you have a chance against. Just watch how well it’s going to work out for the “militia” in southeastern Oregon.
Many people say: Tougher laws will only affect the law-abiding. Criminals don’t follow the law. This is ridiculous. Then why do we have laws at all? Laws may not stop crimes from happening, but the punishment of criminals is a deterrent to others. That’s the whole point.
Others say: If we were to have instituted these laws already, it wouldn’t have stopped the most recent mass murder. Yeah, maybe you’re right. If we instituted a law making it harder for people to buy a gun or rifle, it probably wouldn’t have stopped the San Bernardino shooting, but maybe it would have kept the two-year-old little girl from being shot in the face this past Christmas morning in Molalla, Oregon, by her uncle. Maybe stricter gun laws would stop the recent gang violence in my neighborhood. This summer, during an art fair on Alberta Street in Northeast Portland, a sixteen-year-old boy shot three other people, and two of them were his age. I was there and ran over to help. I saw the wounded and the blood. Maybe stricter gun laws would mean it would be harder for combat veterans to kill themselves. We lose too many to suicide every day.
No one is trying to take guns away from gun owners, unless you are unfit to own a gun. This is to say that our society does not want people who may be potential murderers to own weapons. How do you argue against that, other than to say that maybe someday you’ll want to murder someone? Are the 100 to 150 middle-aged men huddled around a portable generator in the small Malheur Wildlife Refuge building really representing our rights to responsibly own guns?
Instead of feeling indignant about the mention of changing gun laws, help write better ones. Responsible gun owners are needed to change the existing laws to keep people safe. Here are some recent gun laws that make sense:
The Virginia Secretary of State announced that they will stop honoring concealed gun permits from twenty-five other states starting February 1st, 2016. This is estimated to affect up to 6.3 million gun owners. They are doing this because, after the recent shootings, they reexamined their gun laws and noticed that twenty-five out of the thirty state gun laws weren’t as strict as their laws were. Is this common sense or some sort of tyranny?
This year in Oregon we tried to pass a similar law, but it died in committee because according to Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF) it “invests too much power in State Police,” but SB 525 “prohibits possession of firearm or ammunition by person who is subject to restraining order issued by court under Family Abuse Prevention Act or who has been convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes involving domestic violence.” This was passed and signed by the governor along with SB 941a that will expand background checks. The OFF opposed this as well, but the reality of it is guns will stay out of the hands of violent people. If a few of these people are wrongfully accused of being violent and they are kept from buying a gun until the problem is solved legally, what is lost here? A hunting trip versus someone’s life?
As I finish this article, it’s late January 3rd and already this year 196 people have been wounded from gun violence and 82 people have been killed. Almost a hundred people died already and most people are still signing their checks with 2015. There is more than money or pride on the line here. We are dealing with the lives of innocent men, women, and children.
The Constitution was meant to change with the times. Look at the Seventh Amendment: “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” While it’s near impossible to determine how much twenty dollars from 1789 would be worth today, we can determine that it is definitely not the same as the Founding Fathers meant it to be. They may or may not have seen the evolution of weapon technology, but they would have definitely foreseen inflation coming.
Who would you rather dictate the meaning of our laws, an armed mob who are now illegally occupying an obscure federal building in order to support convicted criminals? Or the lead law enforcement officer and lawyer for the United States with the help of your president?