“Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That’s the genius behind the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) slogan and it was the very phrase that came to my mind when news broke of yesterday’s heartbreaking crime.
In the wake of Friday’s tragedy, which sent riveting shock waves through the hearts of Americans as we learned that 20-year-old Adam Lanza took the lives of 27 people – including his own – (20 of which were children between the ages of 6 and 7. THESE WERE KIDS) at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut and with tears welling up in my eyes, I began to think and came to find this: It really doesn’t matter what the motives are behind committing cold, gruesome murder. The fact of that matter is it happened and will more likely than not, happen again. It’s an unfortunate facet of the way life works but is also a great testament to the gravity of what needs to be done at both the federal and state levels to guarantee against future tragedies. No one was able to escape the wrath of Adam’s rage and the fact that it was taken out on such tender, pure, innocent souls is all the more disturbing.
Let’s face it, having guns in homes is a deep part of American culture. We have a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen in this country and a lot of people who want to make sure they can protect themselves. An attempt to eradicate guns across the board would make prohibition look like a day in the park. Just hours after POTUS secured his reelection he ordered the U.S. mission to the United Nations delegation to vote in favor of a UN proposal to fast track an international gun control treaty (which establishes a bizarre moral equivalence between countries that trade arms to defend freedom and those that do so to suppress and extinguish it). While I’m not advocating for an entire ban on guns by any means or expressing support for a treaty that would necessarily pose a significant threat to our national security or our constitutional rights, I’m starting to question whether weapons that were designed for soldiers in war should be in our streets.
With the gun violence-related events that have been occurring in our country over this past year, it should come as no surprise that we’ll be witnessing the igniting of an even more heated debate surrounding the verbiage in the Second Amendment and gun laws in this country. Lawyers and the courts have been battling over this highly contested subject since that fateful day on December 15, 1791, when the law of our great land, the Constitution, was ratified. But there’s a large and widely unseen misconception here with the language of the Second Amendment and it’s implementation at the time it first came to fruition, versus today. While it is very important, its also greatly misunderstood. It clearly 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.” The phrase “bear arms” was referring to soldiers and militiamen. Not to private gun use by an individual in a home or on a hunt. The central image of association was that of Minutemen bearing arms, not Daniel Boone gunning down bears. And so with that ever-evolving depiction, so too has the interpretation behind the Second Amendment.
In fact increasingly calls have been made for the the Second Amendment to be interpreted alongside the 14th Amendment particularly the privileges and immunities clause in Section 1 which states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” It focuses on Rights Guaranteed Privileges and Immunities of Citizenship, Due Process and Equal Protection. Many see the recognition of this clause as being necessary to respect the Framers’ vision, as it was inspired by the Declaration of Independence and laid out in the Constitution, for a government that would in fact serve instead of rule, the people which translates to government’s limited role whilst the Constitution would stand as an ever-watchful guardian to assure and ensure that government would not overstep its bounds, as we know very well they are apt to doing.
A companion statute to the 14th Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1866, declared that “laws … concerning personal liberty [and] personal security … including the constitutional right to bear arms, shall be secured to and enjoyed by all the citizens.” Here, in sharp contrast to founding-era legal texts, the “bear arms” phrase was decisively severed from the military context. Additionally, the Second Amendment harkens back to an 18th Century America where citizens were regularly rounded up for militia service on the town square and where the federal army was rightly suspect. This is no longer our world and while the framers of the 14th Amendment did focus intently on self-dense in the home, the framers of the Second Amendment did not.
Whatever direction this hot topic ends up taking, the calls for action are being heard loud and clear across the nation. Our nation has grieved the loss of 20 of our children and this will hopefully prompt a call to action and initiatives to prevent future tragedies from occurring without causing damage to the individual rights we hold as citizens of this great county and maintaining its stalwart principles. As with everything in life, there is something to be said about finding and maintaining a balance; a middle ground of sorts. Too much of anything is never a good thing and in times of grief, well, I think this says it best:
“In times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and make it my own. When you cry I cry and when you hurt I hurt. And together we will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the potholed street of life” ― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook
Godspeed to the families of those affected by this and other tragedies and may we never experience the devastating blow of loss ever again.