A Uniquely American Problem

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.

 

  • Dion Warr

    Dany, first I applaud you in making this topic a subject of your blog. Immediately after this mass shooting incident, it was clear that the pain of this most recent tragedy made it nearly impossible to have rational debate without the raw emotions of such senseless mass casualty and loss getting in the way.

    One point of clarification – the Founders were not only contemplating the absence of a standeeing common defense and reliance of use of the collective force of the common citizenry. They had also lived through a war with the British whose initial numbers had started with a prolonged occupation and increasing regulation on firearms and gunpowder being imposed on the Colonies. One could argue that given the tensions in the Colonies at the time, this was a prudent move – but it in fact did not quell the increasingly revolutionary sentiment, as history shows. In fact, the notion of a large force of heavily armed standing troops policing a less well-armed citizenry seemed to foment anger and discontent (a point not to be lost in modern-day confrontations). An idea was born out of this: in a new nation conceived in liberty, the citizen could be the first line of defense to protect himself – if need be, to provide for the common defense, militias formed of the common citizenry could be raised – their armament largely consisted of their own muskets and rifles, as well as their powder if not drawn from common stores.

    This is a point that should not be lost – although the Founders lived in the 18th Century, they were students of history. They knew what could happen if armed forces were turned on orders of the sovereign against the citizenry – an idea of government formed by the consent of the governed can very quickly devolve into imposition of the will of the government over the governed. The fact that the governed has access to force serves as a check to such a takeover.

    Now – what does that mean in the context of today? Clearly the Founders were not able to contemplate whether personal armaments would be able to project hundreds of projectiles per minute with high degree of accuracy into the surrounding environment. Certainly smoothbore cannon, powder charge and siege weapons were in existence at the time which could inflict massive casualties. But these were generally unwieldy, cumbersome, and/or a burden to operate on an individual basis. They also could not be easily used to target individuals except in a broader environment (meaning selectivity was low – one could take out a column, sector or radius of personnel per attempt) and rates of fire were low. Generally, an individual threat could be subdued (lethally, if necessary) relatively quickly.

    One could say that the Gatling gun changed that – but a Gatling was still fairly heavy (generally wagon mounted for transport) and expensive (not suited for individual ownership or use). In the Americas, likely the first true firearm of terrible effect was the Thompson sub machine gun. It is not coincidental that the first true regulation on ownership of an individual firearm or a class of firearms originated with the National Firearms Act of 1934, which particularly targeted the Thompson as well as similar “machine gun” firearms. Civilian possession of a firearm capable of firing bursts or continuously by use of a single trigger pull have thus long been considered a concern of Congress and civil authorities. Even individual parts considered to be “(a) combination(s) of parts [designed] solely and exclusively” for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun are subject to the act. I consider it noteworthy that the NRA has called for the ATF to review the bump stocks used retrofit and convert the firearms used to enhance the firing capabilities of this shooter well past the point that neuromuscular physiology and muscle fatigue would ordinarily allow.

    It is regularly stated that criminals give little respect to firearms laws, and that those bent on inflicting mass casualties have already dispatched thoughts of consequences of firearms laws violations – with respect to mass shootings of this type, the debate has moved little. With respect to other mass shootings – many of the rest of these events have occurred either with legally obtained firearms or those originally legally obtained but subsequently illegally procured (e.g., taken / stolen). Though arguable, limits on capacities of magazines do little to thwart the effective use of the firearms themselves (assailants simply ignore such provisions, per above, or take measures to store and carry more legal and readily obtainable magazines; speed of changing out of magazines is an easily practiced skill).

    Finally, keep in mind that even the most stringent regulations on capacities of firearms would not prevent mass shootings based upon the definitions as laid out. Most legal and available small firearms (pistols and revolvers) provide for carry and operation with between 5 and 10 rounds, with which an assailant could easily kill or wound at least 4.

    The analogy of the ATM card in a block of ice provides me a little more to discuss – but I’ll refrain from further comment for now – I’ve written enough already, and I look forward to your thoughts.

    • Dion, I feel compelled to respond to your final 3 points.

      First, you are correct when you talk about most of the mass shootings occurred with legally obtained firearms. However, I would point out that in nearly every case, under a legal system of increased gun restrictions, those firearms would not have been a legal purchase, or would have raised so much suspicion as to prevent those acts. If someone like the Las Vegas shooter had been on a registry for gun purchases, red flags would have been raised after buying 19 assault class weapons. To think otherwise is naive and willfully deluded.

      Second, smaller magazine capacities and ammunition restrictions would have greatly increased the inconvenience of this attack, which could have caused the attacker to refrain from the act. If you could only buy a maximum of 100 rounds and limited to 5 round magazines, perhaps he would have thought twice about carrying this act out. At the very least it would have limited his rate of fire which could have saved countless lives. Regardless of how quickly you can reload, 5 seconds is enough time to move and potentially be saved.

      And finally. Your final point I can’t help but stare at open-mouthed. You talk about how most pistols carry between 5-10 rounds, so therefore the definition of mass shooting wouldn’t be changed. Fine. But let me ask you this. If the Las Vegas gunman had 19 pistols of 10 rounds, how many people would be saved? Because I’m positive we’d have far less than 50 dead and 500+ injured. This argument is absurd.

      Once again, I can’t help but see your argument as fear for the unlikely infringement of rights at the cost of American lives, and the only supporting evidence you give for this is the rise of a tyrannical government and the inevitability of destructive human behavior. As I stated in my article, gun control isn’t about stopping gun violence all together. It’s about doing everything we can as a people without restricting liberties to save lives. Because after all, governments are instituted among men to protect the governed’s right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. And right now, We. Are. Dying.