ON DECEMBER 15, 1791, the U.S. Congress ratified the Second Amendment, which 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.” It is part of the 10 amendments that constitute the Bill of Rights.
For almost two centuries, the Second Amendment was unquestionably the right that Americans were willing to die defending it. It was the sacred cornerstone of American patriotism and democracy. But in the aftermath of an alarming number of mass shootings over the past 50 years, Americans began to believe that the Second Amendment had caused more harm than good. Indeed, gun violence in America is rising at a very alarming rate. But Americans don’t want to raise issues against it lest they be accused – or branded – as disloyal and unpatriotic, although study showed that 75% of murders and 51% of suicides resulted form shootings.
But as mass shootings increase, people are beginning to ask themselves: Shouldn’t there be some moderation in acquiring the type of arms that people can buy? A recent Gallup Poll shows that 57% of Americans are in support of stricter gun laws. There is now a bitter debate over gun control with proponents pointing to the Second Amendment as the source of their constitutional authority to bear arms, while those in favor of tighter gun control disagree with that interpretation.
Two mass shootings that were headlined recently were the Kyle Rittenhouse murders and the senseless killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Rittenhouse was a vigilante who fired an AR-15-style assault rifle at three protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin and killed two people and wounded the third person. He was acquitted of the killings, which sparked protests in several cities across the country. Did Rittenhouse murder two unarmed protesters in defense of his Second Amendment right? Or was it an act of vengeance against people he regarded as misfits? Did the acquittal serve justice at the expense of human lives?
In the case of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, three white men were convicted for Arbery’s murder. While jogging in a residential street, three white men in two pick-up trucks chased Arbery, a black man, and shot him to death in Satilla Shores, a neighborhood in Brunswick, Georgia.
Defense attorneys contended the white men were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Claiming self-defense — which was effective in getting Rittenhouse acquitted — the killer of Arbery said that Arbery had grabbed the shotgun that was used to kill him. But a leaked cellphone video showed Arbery being shot three times at pointblank range, which killed him instantly. During the jury deliberation, the jury asked to have the cellphone video of Arbery being shot played back three times. It was evident that the killing was not self-defense. It was murder. However, the question remains: If not for the leaked video, would the jury convict the men accused of shooting a black man?
After the verdict was announced, the Rev. Al Sharpton said, “Let the word go out all over the world that a jury of 11 whites and one Black in the deep South stood up in the courtroom and said Black lives do matter.” Indeed, it was uncommon for an almost all-white jury to convict white men for killing a black man in Georgia. It never happened before.
The recent deadly shooting at an Oxford, Michigan high school signifies the 29th school killing in the country this year. In 2020, there were only 10 shootings, which was mainly due to the pandemic when most schools were closed. In 2018 and 2019, each had 24. What’s going on in America? Young people are being killed mercilessly in the confines of their schools!
In the wake of these mass shootings, Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut and a leading gun control advocate, had requested unanimous consent to pass the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, which would require new background checks for gun transfers between private parties, as well as expand a 10-day review for gun purchases and transfers.
But 88-year-old Senator Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, blocked the request to proceed with the legislation. He condemned it as “hostile towards gun owners and lawful firearm transactions.” He argued that “so-called universal background checks will not prevent crime and will turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.” It’s an old cliché that the National Rifle Association (NRA) had always used to promote gun ownership. But while owning a gun is every American’s right, shooting an innocent American is a crime. It’s murder!
Murphy chided Grassley, saying that the Republican Party cares “more about the health of the gun industry and their profits than they do about the health of our kids.” Touché.
Today, with a spate of mass shootings in schools, the Second Amendment may be losing relevance in the gun debate. The gun control advocates are winning. They’re no longer challenging the right of individuals to bear arms, they want to regulate gun ownership just like the way driving a vehicle is regulated: You need a license to drive a car.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a National Gun Registry. However, some states have established some form of additional registration. Handguns must be registered in New York. New residents must report all firearms in California and Maryland. All “Pre-Ban” assault weapons must be registered in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. All firearms must be registered in Washington DC and Hawaii, which makes one wonder: Why not require firearms to be registered throughout the country? It seems that the NRA’s clout in Congress is so strong that politicians are scared to oppose its dictate.
But there is the National Firearms Act (NFA), which is the closest thing to having a National Gun Registry. The NFA covers all the deadly toys like suppressors, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, and full-auto things. Anybody caught by the ATF without the proper paperwork for these items will be prosecuted. But it is not enough; we need a National Gun Registry. Congress must act.
Million Mom March
It’s interesting to note that on May 14, 2000, several thousands gathered on the National Mall in Washington DC. They were part of the “Million Mom March,” which demanded tougher gun control laws. Actress Susan Sarandon spoke and said that the Second Amendment was a product of a different world where a musket, not an Uzi, was the weapon of choice of a well-regulated militia. She asserted “A three-year-old cannot operate a musket as easily as a three-year-old can pull a trigger now.” She then suggested that those who opposed gun control on Second Amendment grounds be given muskets.
That was 21 years ago. The million moms who participated in the march in Washington DC are now grandmothers and their children are now married and have young children who go to schools. With the deadly violence that occurred in hundreds of schools throughout the country, some may have fallen victims to some crazy kids armed with Uzi submachine guns, not the muskets that were used 200 years ago.
The irony of it all is that nobody ever questioned the morality of the Second Amendment. Perhaps it’s time to question it.