A sober look at the second amendment: Gun control in the US
Author: Cynthia Fisk
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 09/01/2009
Don’t we need to consider the context in which the Second
Amendment was written? At the time, groups called anti-Federalists were suspicious
of standing armies called for in the ratification of the Constitution,
remembering the oppression of British troops. The Amendment was intended to
prevent the federal government from passing laws that would disarm the state
militias that were made up of ordinary citizens who served as part-time
soldiers. The right to keep and bear arms in those militias was the issue.
After all, there were no established police forces, National
Guard nor a standing army when our county was founded. The Amendment stated,
“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.”
These were organized forces regulated by the state
governments. Keeping people in line and bringing a sense of safety were
essential but establishing workable boundaries went along with this. The
militias were intended to be “well-regulated”. Without such behavioral
boundaries, a frontier mentality might have ruled supreme for decades. If a
creature out there in the distance looked menacing, a gun would come out of its
holster and the threat would be erased.
To my disbelief, a recent ruling by the Massachusetts
Judicial Court stated that the possession of an illegal weapon is a “passive
and victimless crime”. That contradicted the idea of a functional entity, at
the ready for possible mayhem. The Constitution posits the rule of law as the
fundamental guide for our modern-day society. Whatever could inhibit that
requires examination and possible intervention. This approach needs to be
applied to all events that work against the common good.
If guns had really been thought to pose no threat, a victim
could take the place of a live human being in no time if he or she didn’t pass
muster. Returning to the present with some facts in mind, how well has this
supposedly maturing country done when the statistic is confronted that 120,000
Americans have been killed in non-terror related homicides since 9/11/01? Bob
Herbert reported this, saying the figure is nearly 25 times the number killed
in Iraq and Afghanistan. He points out in another article that 70,000 have
been injured but haven’t died with 3,000 of those being children.
Closer at hand here in Massachusetts, on May 21st
a mother of three children was shot as she sat on her front porch with them.
Two men on bikes rode off. In the same month a 16 or 17-year-old boy fired a
gun through the window of a liquor store in Dorchester impairing a toddler and
These are just two of a number of heart wrenching examples
of a culture increasingly without those boundaries that are essential. In the
spring, an amendment to a bill concerning credit cards, stated that people
could carry loaded weapons in national parks, including AK- 47s . It’s been
reported that The Fraternal Order of Police and the National Association of
Park Rangers feel this law puts them at risk in the face of armed, possibly
angry visitors. Poachers of rare resources could be there, too. It was said
that instead of the possession of a gun being an offense as it always has been
in national parks, they’d have to wait until likely damage is done and the
damage could include them.
“Ah, but you’re leaving out the crowd that hunts and the
need for self-defense in our homes and yards.” The latter point is a possible
miscalculation. The Harvard School of Public Health reports that a gun in the
home triples the likelihood of a homicide, and is 43 times more likely to kill
a friend or relative than an intruder. How many mishaps come about when
hunters are on the loose? It’s important to face up to this.
There are 280 million guns in this country. Hasn’t the time
come to weigh their costs in human lives? Scientists are discovering that
we’re hard-wired for cooperation and caring, not for a frontiersman’s fight or
flight response. The old-style right to bear arms in a well-regulated militia
doesn’t obtain when citizens can brandish guns on their own, too often with no
discretion or oversight. Guns without checks and balances, can and do maim and
kill. Our neighborhoods must not be like war zones.
Consider that the U.S. has the largest collection of
armaments in the world along with sophisticated police forces and National
Guardsmen. It’s later than late to grow beyond the outmoded mindset of having
a right to keep and bear guns as citizen soldiers and be part of a culture
increasingly dedicated to the fostering of our innate qualities of cooperation
along with the ability to resolve conflict without violence. This will require
dedication and hard work but our world and its people can then endure, not meet
their demise because of guns and bombs.
Bio: As a Quaker devoted to ways to bring about the end of warmaking and the possession of nuclear weapons and as a workshop facilitator of Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication techniques, I believe in talking with adversaries instead of brandishing guns.