How does this keep happening? In a nation so quick to ban bomb-making materials and parking in front of federal buildings to prevent an admittedly rare occurrence, how have we not made it more difficult to commit mass murder?
A mass shooting is defended as a shooting in which a gunman shoots or kills 4 or more people in the same general time and location. And mass shootings are a horrifyingly common occurrence here in the United States. In 2017 alone we have experienced 213 mass shootings. Nearly 8 mass shootings every week. These statistics are absurd.
Most analysts point to the United States’ lax gun regulations. And recent polls have shown that bipartisan support for stricter gun regulations is at an all-time high. But with so much support, how has Congress not passed stricter gun control laws?
Look no further than the NRA. The National Rifle Association lobbies for looser gun regulations and wields considerable political power all in the name of the Second Amendment.
Now, I’ve spoken about various amendments before and how their original intentions have been lost and twisted over the years, and the Second is no different.
When most second amendment proponents rail against gun control as infringing their rights, I believe it’s due to a fundamental misunderstanding in both what the text of the Second Amendment allows and also what is usually meant by gun control.
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.
-Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States
Like any document in history, an integral part of understanding its modern meaning is understanding it’s historical context. The time at which this amendment was written was a time where a large, regulated army was not always available for immediate relief from a hostile enemy force and it was frequently common and necessary for a country’s citizens to take up arms in defense of their own country for a time. Once this threat was abated, those who were members of the militia force went back to their lives where their own rifles and weapons of war were also used as tools for their livelihood, such as hunting on the frontier.
But we no longer live in that world. Our reality is far removed from the world that bore the Constitution of the United States. And just like anything in human civilization, our Consitution should be updated for the times.
It’s this disconnect between what the amendment intends and the reality that we live in that leads to the thought of a right being infringed by regulation.
When the notion of gun control is typically posed, it’s usually done so in vague terms with the intent of bringing members of both parties to the table to discuss the issue and find a solution together. “Clearly there’s a problem and we need to find a solution.” Frequently, the most common solution is the utmost removal of all weapons. A solution no one has proposed, and yet most Second Proponents would claim is the slippery slope upon which we stand poised, precariously.
But this notion could not be further from the truth. In fact, support of Second Amendment rights and support for modern firearm regulations need not be mutually exclusive. One can indeed hold both in their heart simultaneously. But the reality of our situation must be acknowledged: near-unrestricted access to firearms is taking American lives at an abhorrent rate.
Will stricter gun control stop all mass shootings? Perhaps not. Many have pointed out that if one is indeed intent on causing harm, then they will find a way. But I would point out that the point is not to stop all mass shootings with certainty. I would argue that the point is for the government to do everything within its power to prevent the unnecessary death of its citizens.
And yet, perhaps stricter gun control would prevent these types of events. Countries like Australia seem to prove that such measures are indeed effective. But more importantly, perhaps the inconvenience would act as a deterrent in and of itself.
Consider this situation. Freeze your debit card in a six-inch cube of solid ice and leave it there. Imagine how much money you’d save if the convenience was taken away.
Now, think of the Second Amendment as the debit card in the previous thought experiment, and stricter gun control laws as the giant ice cube. No one has infringed your rights. You can still spend your money. You can go to the bank and withdraw cash, or you can take the extra time and steps to thaw the debit card to use it. But it requires an extra step. Perhaps annoying, but potentially life-saving.
The bottom line I’d like to leave you is this question: If we as a nation can do more to save lives, even potentially, should we not? Even if it means a little inconvenience.
I would say the minor inconvenience is worth more than the 500 lives that were irrevocably changed or lost on October 3rd.