Those of you who know me, know that I was raised around guns. My Grandfather and Grandmother were artisans creating handmade, ornate flintlock rifles, scrimshaw powder horns and paintings related to hunting and gun ownership (especially antiques). Therefore the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution has been a strong part of our family heritage.
That being said, there has been an enormous amount of focus on the 2nd Amendment rights, in particular there was some significant time spent during the Third Presidential Debate regarding it.
The 2nd Amendment was adopted within the Bill of Rights on December 15, 1791. Let’s take a moment and look at what the actual text of the 2nd Amendment states:
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 most common examination of that statement is as follows:
- “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…”:
Which means: A Military that is well organized, connected with our country and maintains our freedom, defending our citizens against those who may wish to take our freedom.
- “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”:
Which means: The people (citizens) of this country have the right to own arms (guns) and this right to bear arms shall not be prevented or limited in any fashion.
- I think it’s fair to say that we (as a country) have already violated the second amendment in that there have been numerous restrictions placed on gun ownership in this country (from where it stood in 1791). That’s not a dig, just a fact. Some of those violations are necessary and some are not.
- The “arms” that we have the capability of owning today, are significantly more powerful (yet just as deadly) as the arms that we could own in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was adopted.
The Real Stats:
At the time that this article is being written there have been (from Gun Violence Archive):
- 46,973 Total “Gun Violence” Incidents
- 12, 086 Deaths from guns
- 25,017 Injuries relating to guns
- 558 Children killed or injured from guns
- 2,562 Teens killed or injured from guns
- 312 Mass shootings involving guns
Now, that data above is all fine and dandy for “shock value” and if you take it at face value, it IS shocking, but let’s break this down a little more:
Up to 60% of perpetrators of mass shootings (such as the 312 figure above as well as the 46,973 number) in the United States since 1970 displayed symptoms of mental illness.
I know you have all heard this before but, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.
You can set a gun on a table and sit there and watch if for 100 years and it will NEVER jump off the table and kill someone. But, get someone who has no respect or training (or simply no respect for human life) around a gun (or a knife, or a baseball bat or a bow and arrow) and only then does the weapon become dangerous.
The Real Problem
The real problem boils down to several factors that are decays in our American society itself:
Lack of weapon education (guns, knives, anything that can be used to harm another human)
Lack of ability to control temper and the need to act out instantly. We live in a society where everyone expects instant gratification. Someone sends a text and it instantly gets to the person. Subsequently, someone gets upset or angry and they feel the need to instantly harm the person that is causing them pain. We have removed the ability to stand back and think about our actions, removed the ability to allow common sense to take over.
Mental Illness and our Over Medicated Country:
Studies show that nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness each year. Some of these cases are long term, some of them are short term. To treat mental illness, doctors prescribe hundreds of different medications. For depression for example, a common medication is Welbutrin (bupropion) – a medication that although it can help with depression, can also cause: anxiety, irregular heartbeats, irritability and confusion to name a few side effects.
The reality is, most of the gun violence incidents we will never know or be able to tell if they are mental health / medication related.
Gun Laws Don’t Stop Criminals
The U.S. has national laws that prevent people who have had a felony from owning a gun. But, perhaps one of the most important things that we as a country really need to think about before enacting laws relating to guns is this:
- Criminals don’t care about the law or who is allowed to own a gun, they are going to get guns whether it’s against the law or not.
- Lawful gun owners commit less than a fifth of all gun crimes.
What am I actually saying here?
Now, with all these statements, what am I actually trying to say here? Am I supporting the unlimited ability to own guns? No.
Do I stand behind the idea that laws should limit gun ownership more than they currently do? No.
What I am saying is that we need to not be pigeon holed on our perspective of the 2nd Amendment. We need to stand back and look at the bigger picture and determine where the dangers really are and squelch those dangers. The problem is much bigger than simply limiting gun control.
- The problem is about teaching our youth that instant gratification is not good.
- It’s about ensuring that mental illness isn’t over-diagnosed AND over-medicated.
- It’s about ensuring that gun owners are educated about gun ownership and are held responsible if they are stupid enough to leave a loaded firearm laying around where children can reach them. I personally think that there should be laws in place similar to DUIs. If a gun owner has an incident where a child is injured due to their negligence to protect their firearm, then that owner should have to serve a mandatory, instant (significant) jail-time.
- However… there should be ways for a lawful gun owning adult to quickly get to a firearm if they need it for the purposes of self defense. If someone is threatening your family and for some reason you cannot contact the authorities immediately, then fumbling through trigger locks, loading ammunition and trying to unlock safes are not really viable options.
- Limit the amount of guns that can be licensed in populated areas. I do believe that there should be a limit on the amount of firearms that can be licensed within a given populous (i.e. not everyone in a city needs to own a firearm), but those in the more rural areas I believe do have just cause for such ownership.
- We are not the same country or society that we were in 1791. Just as any other historical document, the constitution needs to evolve and be dynamic… what I fear most is that those changes and dynamic modifications will injure the original context of the Constitution, not enhance it.
That’s my two cents. What’s yours?