Perhaps no Constitutional amendment is attacked so vociferously and unrelentingly as the Second Amendment. The right of American citizens to keep and bear arms is anathema to an ever-growing anti-gun lobby. This lobby consists of people from various walks of life and circumstances who are united perhaps only in their belief that guns are the root cause of the senseless violence that has become so common in contemporary American society. On one side of the debate are the anti-gun advocates who equate guns with mass murder, crime, and violence. On the other side of the debate are Second Amendment supporters who believe that people kill—not guns—and that mental illness and bigotry are major culprits in mass shootings. Second Amendment advocates argue—sensibly and convincingly—that guns do not cause mental illness or bigotry. Nor do they kill for that matter.
There are members of the anti-gun lobby who sincerely—if naively—believe that eliminating guns will eliminate violence. These anti-gun advocates tend to form their opinions on the basis of emotion and, as a result, are not likely to be swayed by facts which show that gun violence actually goes down when citizens are allowed to own and carry firearms. This is because only law-abiding citizens obey gun laws. Criminals simply ignore them and take advantage of the fact that the citizens they prey on are not armed. Facts show conclusively that an armed person is less likely to become the victim of a criminal or a mass murderer.
Then there are the anti-gun advocates who form their opinions on the basis of desperation. This group—which is really a subset of the emotion-driven anti-gun group—can often be heard saying things like, “We have to do something.” Naturally, this subgroup is most vocal in the aftermath of the senseless, brutal mass murders that have become an unfortunate aspect of life in America—tragedies such as the one that occurred recently at the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In that sad case, nine Christians lost their lives during a prayer meeting when a bigoted young man joined the meeting and opened fire on them. This, of course, gave new impetus to the anti-gun lobby’s efforts to eliminate the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, this tragedy would have occurred with or without the Second Amendment because the cause of the murders was bigotry and hatred, not guns. A racist who despised black Americans as much as the hate-filled perpetrator of this mass murder would have found a way to arm himself even if doing so was an illegal act. What does such an animal care about gun laws?
There is little disagreement among advocates on both sides of the issue that something needs to be done. Where the controversy over gun control and the Second Amendment typically arises is over what exactly should be done. One side wants to outlaw guns altogether or at the very least make gun ownership more restrictive though various strategies such as extensive background checks. The other side argues that background checks are observed only by law-abiding citizens, not criminals. Hence, adding more layers to background checks will serve no purpose. Instead, they argue that better monitoring and treatment of the mentally ill coupled with more extensive efforts to get guns out of the hands of criminals, will be more effective in curbing gun violence.
The latest strategy of the anti-gun lobby is an action recommended by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the court’s more liberal judges and an anti-gun advocate. Stevens claims that the Second Amendment debate can be settled for all time by simply adding five words to the amendment. Those five words are: “…when serving in the Militia…” With the addition of these five words, the functional and perhaps most controversial clause in the Second Amendment would read as follows: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”
Of course, as those familiar with the Second Amendment controversy know, Stevens is just trying to re-introduce an old and long-standing line of thought in the on-going debates about the amendment. For years, anti-gun advocates argued that the Second Amendment empowered the Militia to carry weapons, not private citizens. Second Amendment advocates countered that since the Militia is composed of private citizens, the amendment applies to private citizens. What Justice Stevens leaves out of his recommendation is the fact that this strategy was rendered null and void by the Supreme Court when the justices ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the Second Amendment empowers citizens to keep a handgun
There was a time when the Second Amendment debate centered around the actual wording of the amendment.
During the time that the most recent gun-control debate has been raging, Americans have been killed or injured by a crazed student wielding a box cutter, an angry boyfriend wielding a baseball bat, and two homemade bombs ignited using cell phones. Of course, there have also been incidents of people being killed by handguns, knives, ropes (strangulation), and—in the not-to-distant past—even by being dragged behind a truck. The point here is that people are murdered by bad people, not by guns, knives, bombs, rope, box cutters, or trucks. There is no end to the list of objects, tools, and implements—including plain old human hands—that can be used to kill another person.
Try this. Walk through your home checking in drawers, cabinets, and on shelves and make a list of the various tools, objects, and implements that could be used by a crazed person to kill or injure another. I first encountered this enlightening exercise during a hand-to-hand combat course I had to take in the Marine Corps many years ago. Our instructor called these items that are almost always available in any environment weapons of opportunity. We were taught that if attacked to use any weapon of opportunity that might be available. Some of the weapons of opportunity we practiced using were a brick, large stone, tree limb, a broken bottle, a bent piece of rebar, and a tent peg. In fact, as things turned out one of the best weapons in the Marine Corps’ arsenal turned out to be our E-tool (entrenching tool). The E-tool is a small collapsible shovel that is used to dig a foxhole. However, it can also be used to decapitate or crush the skull of an enemy soldier.
My point is that violence and murder are in the hearts of men, not the magazines of rifles and pistols. I have a shotgun and a pistol, neither of which has ever killed anyone. Nor has my hammer, chainsaw, shovel, hoe, carving knives from the kitchen, the left over stack of bricks from when we renovated out house, my car, the tent pegs that came with the tent we never use, the hedge clippers, the lawn mower, my car, or a long list of other things around my house that could easily be used weapons of violence. The reasons these tools and other implements have not been used to kill anyone is that I am not a killer.
People kill—guns don’t. Nor do hammers, broken bottles, or carpet knives. This is a simple enough concept, but liberals refuse to accept it. Instead they waste an enormous amount of energy trying to outlaw guns. Let us suppose for the moment that the left finally wins its emotion-driven, illogical campaign to ban assault weapons and large magazines. Within a few days of the president signing the bill into law, there will be a high-profile murder in which the weapon used is some everyday implement such as a box cutter, a baseball bat, or a kitchen knife. What then? Shall we outlaw everything that might possibly be used to kill another person? Perhaps it would be better to do the hard work of transforming people with murder in their hearts into responsible citizens. Are you listening Mr. President?