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We are in the midst of a great debate about guns. We are increasingly being killed by them.
There are some things we can agree on. People have a right to life. People have a right to defend themselves. Killing with guns has become a problem and something needs to be done. We disagree about what to do.
Our Constitution is our guide simply because of what it may uphold or reject that states or the federal government legislate. On the one side, the Preamble To Our Constitution proclaims, "... insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare ..." as primary goals. We are not being defended.
The right to life is enshrined in our country's values. It's called an “inalienable right” in the Declaration of Independence (not a law). It's enshrined as law in Amendment 5 of the Bill Of Rights, and in Amendment 14 of the Constitution. The government can't take away this right without due process of law.
On the other side are gun rights advocates. When the US Constitution was written, the US was following English Common Law. Owning a gun was a "natural right" to self defense, with restrictions and loyalty pledges. Muskets were used for self defense, shooting game for the table, and insurrection against England. The Constitution did not address the issue of private gun ownership. What would have been the point?
The Constitution did address the subject of militias in Article 1, Section 8. Insurrection was a definite possibility in the early years. The US Congress was given power over militias and was to arm them and specify training and discipline, for the purpose of putting down insurrections and for defense. The states were to provide the officers and do the training.
Amendment 2, is not clear, but was taken from state constitutions. Some think it was borne of fear of the possibly of defending themselves against federal government tyranny. It 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." While this was historically considered by the court as a collective right subject to militia membership, the Alito era Supreme Court held that this applied to an individuals' right to own guns.
Unlike the right to life, the right to gun ownership is not absolute. The Supreme Court has upheld restrictions on types of guns, such as sawed off shotguns which were a menace to public safety, suppressors, and automatic weapons. It also has upheld restrictions on types of people who can own guns, such as felons.
Things change, and the law has to change with it. The National Guard became the militia, and their armaments are kept in armories. The national military services are not allowed to operate within the US (Coast Guard exempted), and our laws are established and our representatives are subject to public vote, so tyranny is unlikely. But that doesn't mean that people should not be able to own guns for their self defense. It also doesn't mean that weapons that were designed for war, semi-automatic weapons, should be beyond restriction.
The debate has prevented restrictions on guns for long enough that we see what works and what doesn't. It should be beyond debate at this point that even well trained people fail to protect others and even themselves in active shooter situations. Forty-six percent of the police get shot when confronting active shooters. Combat vets declare arming the public as a fantasy. There is a mountain of evidence against arming people. Additionally, arming everyone conflicts with evidence that the more guns there are, the higher the amount of gun violence. Arming teachers would just provide a gun to be taken away and used. They get taken away from police. And reacting effectively requires continuous training, and even then gets the person killed.
Mental illness is blamed. Psychologists give a variety of labels to mass shooters. The characteristics aren't mental illness but people who are isolated, feel helpless to change their situation, have lost hope of it changing, and lash out in anger. It's an anger and rage problem.
Our society, locked out by privacy laws and apathy, has proven totally ineffective at identifying and dealing with people who could become a mass shooter, even when they are repeatedly identified to authorities such as school counselors, the police, and FBI. The problems are endless. Part is failure of agencies to report. Part is failure to investigate. Part is failure to recognize there is a problem. Part is because the referring agency might have to pay for treatment. The causes are known for pockets of violence in inner cities, but no one cares enough to solve the problem. It's overflowing into the larger city and suburbs now.
School shootings are the tip of the iceberg. If we harden schools, costing millions of dollars to turn each school into a fortress, those shooters will just turn to some other places (which I won't mention). There is no safe place for our children or anyone else. Arming teachers won't help. Even many combat veterans say arming individuals is a dangerous fantasy.
Only 30% of people own guns, and of those, 72% own only a handgun. A small percentage own semi-automatic rifles. But there is a gun incident on school campuses every week with frequent mass shootings, and every day there is a mass shooting of four or more people in the US. Only 57% of gun owners store them where kids can't get them. Owning semi-automatic weapons, which have little practical value, are difficult to justify.
Since 1998 I have researched this issue with an unbiased mind until 2017, and published reports and statistics from relatively unbiased and authoritative sources. Now I believe gun control is the only realistic answer. You can find my in-depth report at Gun Violence Claims Reviewed and Evaluated.
Two recommendations that meet everyone half way. Require all semi-automatic rifles to be safely secured at a shooting range or armory, and only used there. Require all semi-automatic handguns to hold six or fewer bullets in a permanent cartridge, or disable the automatic feed. If this can be accomplished, then removing all firearms might be avoided.
The right to life and to being defended by our government, in our Constitution, far overshadow the perceived right to own semi-automatic weapons.
Please support the Never Again movement:
March 14: Students and faculty to walk out of their schools at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes, one minute for each life lost in the South Florida shooting.
March 24: March For Our Lives, Washington D.C. Ban civilian ownership of semi-automatic and automatic weapons.
April 20, which marks the 19th year since the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.
Please demand the resignation of any school administrator or public official who opposes, restricts, bans, threatens penalties, or in any way obstructs these events.
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