When The Second Shall Be First
The right to bear arms has been consistently affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Most Americans either cheer, accept, or acquiesce to this view. As on most subjects there are a few Americans who do not support anyone (save police and the military) to bear arms. For the present, the 2nd Amendment has risen to the most controversial and most pressing issue before Congress. The second is now first. Why?
Some might say the President and many members of Congress are engaged in an assault on the 2nd Amendment. In other words, a tyranny is unfolding in which the already too large Federal Government is going to confiscate arms which the Constitution guarantees the right to carry. Hmmm.
The 2nd Amendment reads “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.” So what does that mean?
The NRA as well as other concerned groups read this literally, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”. This means to these enthusiasts, unbridled rights to anything that can be called “arms”, and no taxes, no registration, no questions. Period.
In a democracy, dissenters are accepted and often protected even though the masses may prefer other options. The NRA types enjoy this protection also. The group leading the NRA today bare little resemblance to the patriotism or long term thinking of our founding fathers.
By analogy, the first Amendment can cast some important light upon the 2nd. The first amendment guarantees free speech and freedom of religion. It is, however, not unlimited in its protections. It does not cover the misuse of speech (we have liable laws) nor does it allow any particular religion to practice their views if they injure someone else. There simply must be limits on the 2nd as well.
The questions ought to be what limits and why.
Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Aurora movie theater, the Gabby Gifford shooting, and Virginia Tech all involved automatic, high muzzle velocity guns, with large capacity clips, all obtained “legally” and somehow at the time of the tragedies, in the hands of mentally challenged individuals. Outlawing assault weapons, while sensible, seems woefully short of comprehensive and meaningful action. Banning large capacity clips seem a move in the right direction but again insufficient if it is alone as the only step to restrict unwanted gun use. And what is there to keep a sane person from acquiring weapons and then later becoming mentally unfit? Hmmm.
Most gun owners and even the leadership of the NRA must in moments of honesty detest these recent mass killings. It makes no sense for gun collectors, gun range enthusiasts, gun dealers (manufacturers too), and gun owners who seek them for personal protection to see guns used in mass killings. So why can we not find a purposeful way to discuss reducing the risk of mass murders?
Gun registration, 100% background check, no straw purchasers (like being able to only buy 1 gun per month for personal use, unless one is a registered gun dealer), and an increased effort to detect mental illness before it is too late, are all steps that can be taken without needing to ban or confiscate any guns. But these measures meet with the same intense, almost fanatical reaction, by the NRA and other fringe, extremist groups.
President Obama has made his recommendations. Soon the focus will be on his recommendations and why they cannot (or should not) be implemented. If we are to properly apply the blessings of democracy to the minority that currently are strongly pro-gun, it is time for them to come forward and contribute to the improvement of the current situation. “A good guy with a gun” is not a worthy contribution.