Gun Control in America – 50 Years of Shooting Blanks
By Eric Frost-Barnes
I love our nation, and I believe in the 2nd Amendment. I also believe in the 1st Amendment, as well as the 13th and 19th Amendments. Truth is, I’m a big fan of nearly all our Amendments, with the notable exception of that self-righteous 18th one (but since the 21st Amendment got it drunk and rolled it under our national porch, it’s remained relatively mellow). But I digress – back to focusing my sights on the 2nd Amendment. I firmly believe in an individual’s right to bear arms with that right being a vital aspect toward maintaining the security of a free state. And that is exactly what the 2nd Amendment says: “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.”
Personally, I think anyone debating gun control, regardless of their position, needs to fully understand exactly what the 2nd Amendment states. The words “well regulated” are right there at the very beginning, and the amendment ends with the final four words, “shall not be infringed.” The word “infringed” means violated, and given the fact the 2nd Amendment begins with the term “well regulated,” it seems more than safe to surmise that our nation’s Founding Fathers recognized that guns, much like government itself, should not be allowed to get out of control – for it would be the nation’s citizens who would likely suffer the most. I also believe it’s safe to say that history has repeatedly proven our Founding Fathers to be extremely intelligent, forward-thinking men. They weren’t only interested in their own rights and safety, but the rights and safety of future generations (except maybe for Founding Father Pierce Butler of South Carolina – 18th Century rumors have him painted as kind of a selfish tool).
This November marks the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy. It’s been half a century since he was murdered by a man with a rifle. And in between 1963 and the present, we’ve witnessed the fatal shootings of Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and Malcolm X, as well as failed assassination attempts directed at Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, Alabama Governor George Wallace, and U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
· In that same fifty-year time span the American people have seen the horror of the University of Texas (1966) massacre that left 17 fellow citizens dead.
· We witnessed 21 Americans die at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, California (1984), and another 14 innocent civilians die at a post office barely two years later (1986) in Edmond, Oklahoma.
· 23 more Americans died in a cafeteria shooting (1991) in Killeen, Texas.
· We watched as 13 students and teachers were killed in a mass shooting at Columbine High School (1999) in Littleton, Colorado.
· 32 students were shot to death at Virginia Tech (2007) in Blacksburg, Virginia.
· We witnessed two horrific shooting sprees (2009) where 13 innocent Americans died in each: first at an Immigration center in Binghamton, New York, and then again at a soldier readiness processing center in Fort Hood, Texas.
· Our nation grieved for 12 more Americans killed while watching a midnight movie at a theatre (2012) in Aurora, Colorado, as well as the terrible mass murder of 26 faculty and young children at Sandy Hook Elementary School (2012) in Newtown, Connecticut.
That final grim statistic of twenty-six Americans killed at Sandy Hook coincidentally matches the number of Constitutional Amendments dismissed and left for dead by your more wild-eyed vocal opponents of any kind of common-sense gun laws; even as those same zealots rant and rave about the sanctity of our Constitution when it comes to the absolute protection of their favorite Amendment: the 2nd. But again, I digress.
As stated above, nine of the ten deadliest shootings in U.S. history have occurred since the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. And yet, over the past fifty years the level of regulation of gun ownership in America has seemingly remained as lax as ever. Sure, there are laws on the books, but there are an equal amount of loopholes to get around those laws, and many of these regulations differ from state to state. And as rhetoric from gun-control opponents increases and becomes even less rational, that very loud minority seems to be standing their ground quite well – even as more and more Americans die or are injured due to gun-related violence. And again, the ability to purchase firearms remains as easy as ever, regardless of an individual’s background or mental state. Anyone over the age of eighteen, and with enough cash, can purchase a gun without so much as showing a single piece of identification. And that’s at many gun shows, within the light of day. Greater scrutiny – or regulation – is used when a citizen is applying for a driver’s license or a fishing permit.
Vocal opponents of common sense gun regulation, such as universal background checks, claim that regulation could lead to a path where Americans’ firearms will be taken away. First off, that is nonsense. We have approximately 11.5 million illegal immigrants living here at least part time and we cannot even decide on the most effective way to decrease those numbers. How in the wide world of sports is the U.S. government ever going to confiscate the more than 300-million firearms within our nation’s borders? Here’s a hint: they aren’t. But having would-be buyers go through background checks and day-long firearm certification courses (not to mention owning insurance policies for their firearms) before we add to that already insanely high number might just make it a little trickier for the next murderous thug to get his hands on an AR15 or Bushmaster XM-15. At the very least, these small hurdles might help people take gun ownership more seriously and the safety courses would increase owner’s knowledge of their firearms and how to manage those weapons with a healthier respect.
Opponents also claim that regulating firearms like the Bushmaster XM-15 or ZM LR-300 will lead to a slippery-slope where The Government can take any type of weapon from its citizens. It’s already illegal, due to governmental regulation, to own a rocket launcher or a tank, not to mention a mere silencer (in some states), yet Americans are not freaking out about their tank-driving rights being suppressed and crushed by those who hate freedom. Point is, reasonable regulation for some lethal weapons does not, nor ever has, equate to the unreasonable regulation of all lethal weapons.
Opponents of common sense gun control also use one of their favorite sayings when debating this combustible subject matter; they will claim that “guns don’t kill people,” but rather, “It is people who kill people.” And while it’s safe to say none of us has ever heard a nightly news story about an AK-47 walking down Main Street by itself randomly shooting folks, it is equally likely that the news has never reported on an individual going on a murderous rampage where the weapon of choice was an X-Box console or an Oliver Stone DVD. Because certain firearms can fire so many rounds in such a short time – through the use of ammunition magazines that carry dozens of rounds – it allows these madmen an easier, more effective way to carry out their crimes. Yes, an individual can commit unspeakable evil with a knife or other type of non-firearm, but the automatic weapon allows for a lethal efficiency that most knives, hammers, Chinese stars, or plastic bags cannot.
“What about cars?” Gun control opponents point out that every year thousands of Americans die in auto accidents. “Why not focus your regulations there?” Fortunately, for us, the government has. Over the last half-century, the U.S. government has increased the level of safety when it comes to automobiles. From improving our nation’s roadways to enforcing the now mandatory installation of lap and shoulder safety belts in all vehicles manufactured in the U.S., successful efforts have been made to protect both drivers and passengers; and yet we don’t hear too many Americans clamoring about their driving rights being jeopardized. It seems that most Americans have “evolved” when it comes to safety behind the wheel. Would it honestly be so controversial to apply this mindset to guns?
Finally, opponents of sensible gun control laws argue that further regulation only punishes the law-abiding citizen, and that criminals will still be able to get their hands on firearms of all kinds. Not if certain types of automatic weapons were completely off the market – across the board. If gun manufacturers would simply put an end to making some of the weapons that are mentioned above, then no new ones would fall into the wrong hands. And the models out there could slowly be removed from the market (save for those registered in private collections). As for law-abiding citizens, well here’s a little inconvenient truth to remember: a lot of these mass-murderers were law-abiding citizens before they decided that life was too much for them. Not every mass shooting is done by some masked man clad in black and running through the streets cackling like The Joker. These terrible crimes, as well as thousands of hand-gun related shootings, occur when a so-called law-abiding citizen snaps over losing his job, or when he believes his taxes are higher than what he thinks fair, or when his favorite football team suffers a shellacking on a Sunday afternoon.
If our nation can mature on this particular subject, then surely we as a society can begin to take real steps toward keeping more Americans safer when it comes to both the attaining and usage of firearms. Yet for many opponents, evolving on gun rights is as terrifying for them as the idea of a full, tyrannical governmental takeover (where the only thing between Freedom and Communism is a forty-round clip). And speaking of make-believe, how is it that a very outspoken minority – who at times vocalizes an unsettling amount of paranoia about The Government – is retaining control of the majority of power and “say-so” in D.C. when it comes to suppressing gun-control and the safety and peace-of-mind of the vast majority of Americans? Why do our elected politicians ignore the facts, the will of the people, and piles of bodies in favor of the gun-manufacturing and NRA lobbies? Is K Street that much more valuable than American children?
None of the facts stated above are new, and a good argument can be made that this entire piece brings no new data or viewpoints to the gun-control debate – but that’s the point. There are already enough facts to justify real action. There is already an abundance of American support for more basic common-sense laws when it comes to gun-control. And yet, still nothing is done by our so-called leaders and inevitably the press fades away from this subject until the next school massacre; when it once-again becomes fashionable to cover the loss of American lives due to the irrational needs of a powerful few. It seems the only thing being “well regulated” is the effort to protect our citizens from the more extreme aspects of our gun culture.
Our Constitutional rights are extremely important. I’m not for sacrificing all of our freedoms in the name of governmental protectionism. But when decade upon decade continues to reveal our penchant for firearm-related violence, it is time to argue less and take stronger, more decisive steps toward protecting ourselves and each other. So far, the talk has been tragically cheap (though not as cheap as a box of bullets). The 2nd Amendment is an important part of who we are as a nation, but it is no more important than the amendments that call for a freedom of the press or for a right to a fair and speedy trial. Far too many innocent Americans have died because an incredibly stubborn and vocal minority are unwilling to meet somewhere in the middle on gun control. The U.S. Constitution was co-written by Franklin, Hamilton, and Madison – not by Beretta, Smith, and Wesson. Tragically, within these past fifty years, it has become increasingly difficult to remember that.