The tragic shootings in Newtown, CT last month reignited the ongoing debate on the Second Amendment. You know, that’s the amendment that gun rights activists, the NRA, survivalists, and all kinds of crazies cite as the part of the U.S. Constitutions that grants them the right to keep and bear arms.
I am not a legal or Constitutional scholar. Nor am I, as I noted in my last post on this topic, a gun owner or user. But as a member of the human race, I do have perspectives regarding the Second Amendment. In fact, I have strong opinions about whether or not it actually applies to the ownership and use of concealed weapons and assault-style rifles.
Let’s review the wording of the Second Amendment: 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.
So what does it really mean? The opening phrase refers to “a well regulated militia.” What is a militia? According to dictionary.com, a militia is “a body of citizen soldiers as distinguished from professional soldiers.” Merriam-webster.com defines it as “a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency” or “a body of citizens organized for military service.”
Using these definitions of “militia,” most Americans are not members of one.
Now what about well regulated? Thefreedictionary.com defines well regulated as “controlled or supervised to conform to rules, regulations, tradition, etc.” I suggest that, when it comes to gun ownership, including concealed weapons and semiautomatic assault rifles, the notion of “well regulated” is not even close.
Okay, let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that the framers of the Constitution really did intend for all citizens...well, at least white male citizens...to be armed, should they so choose, regardless of whether they were members of a “well regulated militia.”
But let’s also put this in context of the late 18th Century, when the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written. This was a time when “standing armies” (e.g., the British Redcoats) were seen as a potential threat to freedom and liberty, and when calling out of the militia required individual soldiers to supply their own weapons.
Plus, the “arms” of that era were single-fire muskets, which, by the way, are impossible to carry around concealed, and flint-lock pistols. According to eHow.com, the steps involved in loading and firing a musket are:
- Standing up, set the hammer to “half cock” for safety reasons. You’ll be looking down the barrel quite a bit, and you don’t want the hammer on full cock, which if kicked or dropped, might cause the musket to fire.
- Grab a charge out of the box or from your ammo pouch. Tear off the top of the charge with your teeth and keep the ball that was on the top in your mouth. Pour the powder down the barrel. Put the ball of lead into the barrel and put the wadding from the package on top.
- Take the ramrod and tamp the powder, the ball, and the wadding into the barrel. The wadding is there to make sure that the ball and gunpowder stay put.
- Add some gunpowder to the flash pan below the trigger and fully cock the musket.
- Aim for the biggest mass you can on the battlefield because this weapon is not very accurate. Once you’ve set your sights on your target, press the trigger and the hammer will come down. This strikes flint against the pan, causing the gunpowder behind the ball to ignite and the weapon to fire.
At best, a highly trained soldier might have been able to pump out two to four musket shots a minute. Now let’s contrast that with an AR-15, today’s semiautomatic weapon of choice. Using 30 round magazines, it can easily fire off 60 rounds or more a minute.
Now think about our Founding Fathers back then, sitting around listening to their iPods, watching the Patriots game on their 60 inch, 3D, LCD flat-panel HDTVs, or checking what their friends were up to on Facebook. Can you seriously believe they had military-grade, semiautomatic assault rifles in mind when they drafted up the Second Amendment?
And do gun rights activists and the NRA genuinely feel it’s necessary for everyday citizens to be able to arm themselves with these assault weapons that are intended to inflict the maximum fatality potential in order to defend their homes or to hunt defenseless wild game?
A nationwide poll by the Pew Research Center found that, by a margin of 51% to 45%, Americans believe it’s more important to control gun ownership than to protect the “right” of Americans to own guns. Nearly 56% of the public favor a ban on assault-style weapons, with Democrats (69%) being far more likely than Republicans (44%) to support this. Yeah, what a shocker!
Unfortunately, those concerned about gun rights are more likely to be politically active on the issue. I’m sorry, folks, but any reasonably thinking human being, even those who support the right of citizens to keep and bear arms, can’t possibly justify the availability and use of such assault weapons by other than members of the military...the professional military.
We need to
stop the insanity. As New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said recently, “Enough is enough. It’s time for Congress to put public health above special interests and politics.”