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. - U.S. Constitution, 2nd Amendment
The horrific shooting / mass murder that occurred in Aurora, CO last week has once again reignited the discussion about guns in America. There are some that say "now is not the time" to have this discussion. Every single person that says that is against gun regulations, and knows that having these discussions after a nightmare scenario like this will go against their agenda. One has to wonder what that agenda is based on, and whether they believe any gun regulations are acceptable (for the most part - no).
Some people have bought into the notion of the U.S. as the last bastion of the wild frontier, where cowboys have shoot-outs and settlers fight off injuns. Some people have bought into the fear that crime is all around them, and their only respite is via a firearm. Some people have watched too many movies and/or played too many video games and think guns are cool.
Let's stop and take a reality check: Guns are designed to kill. With the exception of hunting rifles, guns are one of those very rare products that are illegal to use for their intended purpose. Some states have passed laws making killing another person "okay" if you feel your life is in danger (THAT worked out well for Trayvon Martin), but for the most part, guns are designed to kill people, and it is against the law to do that. Some guns (like the AR-15) do that very efficiently.
So let's brush aside all tangential reasons people buy guns and get to the crux of it: guns are not toys, they're not an equalizer, they're not some romantic link to our past. They are simple killing machines.
But - some would point to the 2nd amendment and claim that it is their right to own a gun. Taken in its totality, the amendment clearly indicates the purpose for owning a gun is to maintain a well-regulated militia (ie: The National Guard). However, that argument has long left the building - even the Supreme Court has backed down from that.
People who use our nation's founding and history as a justification for personal gun ownership state that the purpose was to prevent the populace from being overrun by a tyranical government. They reason that should it become necessary, "the people" can take the country back from tyranny, and they'll need their firearms to do so.
The last time "the people" tried that was the American Civil War. How did that
work out? The Confederacy put up a good fight, but ultimately lost. Since that time the U.S. military has become the biggest most powerful military on the planet, with sophisticated weaponry, technology, and training. What possible chance would some rag-tag outfit of dissidents have against that? I am only guessing, but I suspect that the people who believe we need private gun ownership as a hedge against tyranny also idolize the U.S. Armed Forces. Do they not see the disconnect? Who do they think would be defending the U.S. Government and it's law-abiding citizens? If they think THEY can take on the military, what chance do we have against other countries?
The next main argument for gun ownership is that it provides safety. "If everyone were armed, there'd be less crime" so they say. Rep. Louie Goehmert (R-TX) wondered aloud after the shooting that if someone in the crowd was packing heat, there would have been a lot less bloodshed. It's time for another reality check...
The theatre was dark, the shooter was wearing a bullet-proof vest, and the place was total chaos. I am guessing that someone with a gun would be much more likely ducking and running than pulling out their pistol and firing back. It's one thing to go to a shooting range and practice shooting at a paper target. It's quite another thing to take a bead on another human being and pull the trigger. It's a MUCH
different thing to do that while being shot at. That's one thing you don't get to experience while taking target practice - getting shot at. Even cops and soldiers have to overcome that fear and urge to hide when the bullets start flying. That's why they have "live fire" training. Do people really think some average Joe is going to pull a Dirty Harry the first time they encounter that situation? Would Louie Goehmert have pulled out a gun and started firing back? We both know the answer to that
The final big argument against gun regulations is that it would only keep guns from "law abiding citizens" - criminals are going to break the law anyway. The flaw with this argument is that these types of mass-shootings are almost always perpetrated by "law-abiding citizens", not people with a criminal record... So apparently, the regulations we have in place aren't preventing these from occurring, and perhaps it's time to look for new ways to address the problem.
The first thing that's necessary is to realize that while "keeping and bearing arms" may be a right, unfettered access to purchasing
them is not. There is also the notion that because it's a right enumerated in the Bill of Rights, no limitations can be made. That is, of course, absurd. Public safety and public good have always trump individual liberties. Freedom of Speech is limited by making it illegal to yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater (just one example). Freedom of the Press is limited by making it illegal to print lies about a person (or face a lawsuit). Freedom of religion is limited in numerous ways - just ask the Fundamental Mormons about polygamy; you also can't stone a woman for adultery.
So limitations on the 2nd amendment would be in keeping with a tradition in America of setting limitations on rights when it seems necessary for the common good. It is already illegal for citizens to own certain types of arms (bombs, etc.), and even NRA-purists would likely agree with keeping guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and those diagnosed with certain mental illnesses. So enacting some other common-sense regulations are well within our bounds to protect our citizenry, insure domestic tranquility, and provide for the common defense:
- Close the "gun show loophole". Make it illegal to sell a firearm without going through the proper channels.
- Prohibit online sales of guns or ammunition.
- Track all sales through a central government DB, so that red flags can be thrown when someone starts amassing an arsenal.
- Make certain firearms illegal to own (assault rifles and/or guns that can be converted to automatic fire)
- Make safety training required for every firearm purchased, with a tax penalty for those who fail to comply.
None of these regulations violate the 2nd amendment. They don't violate a right to keep and bear arms, they simply ensure that firearms purchases are tracked, as are the people who buy them. This is just a start, but had these regulations been in place, the tragedy in Colorado would likely have been nipped in the bud before it happened.
It's time to have that discussion. We start by changing the debate from the current paradigm of "gun regulations limit ownership and are unconstitutional" to the reality that "regulations on internal arms trafficking are not unconstitutional". They do not limit ownership, they only regulate the business of selling them.