I had hoped that the news coverage surrounding the tragedy yesterday would remain apolitical. Fat chance. Whenever a tragedy like this happens, everybody gets this idea that “something must be done.” So what could have been done to prevent this from happening?
Here’s what we know: a 20 year old man walked into an elementary school and murdered 26 people, 20 of whom were little children. The guns he used did not belong to him. This was a horrific act.
The founding fathers wrote the second amendment to the constitution for a reason. For the sake of reference, I will quote the entire amendment here:
“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.”
The word militia has varying definitions, but all of them imply an army comprised of citizens. In the Revolutionary War (which must have been in the founder’s minds as they wrote the second amendment), the militia was separate from the standing army (or the “regulars”). The United States militia was comprised of regular people with limited military training who could be called upon to repel foreign invasion at a minute’s notice (hence the term “minutemen”).
With this in mind, we have to conclude that the purpose of the second amendment was not to state that people have the right to own guns for hunting or even home defense. These are not even addressed in the amendment. The only right regarding arms in the Bill of rights is the right of each citizen to bear arms in such a way as to be ready to form an informal military group for national or local defense. So to those who say the second amendment allows people to own guns for hunting or home defense: no it doesn’t. The second amendment allows private citizens to own weapons to help defend the country against foreign aggression.
The other possible intention of the second amendment is that the founders recognized that government, while well-intentioned in the beginning, could become tyrannical, and it is the duty of the citizenry to rise up against it, if the government becomes so. I think this intention is clear in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
So the founding fathers allowed that at some point our government may reach the point where it needs to be replaced, and it would therefore be the job of the citizens to change that government. I am not saying that our government has reached this point. What I am saying is that, as citizens, we should preserve our right to change the government if it becomes necessary to do so in the future. It would be pretty hard to overthrow a tyrannical government with deer rifles, shotguns, and “handguns with limitations.”
I do not personally own an “assault rifle” of any kind, but that is because of financial concerns. If I could afford one, I would own one, and use it at the range.
What do they say in every movie when a powerful weapon is invented? They say, “We need to make sure this doesn’t get into the wrong hands.” That is why convicted felons are not supposed to have guns, even though many do (they ARE felons, after all). I submit the solution to all this gun violence is NOT to revoke the second amendment, but to address the problem behind the gun: the shooters.
What this all comes down to is that this shooting was a heart issue. This man decided in his heart that murdering 26 people, including children, was an acceptable practice. He CHOSE to do this. From this we can know that there was something fundamentally wrong with his thought process. And this is not an easy thing to pin down: who can we trust with guns?
And that is not an easy question to answer.