Gun Control Groups Vs. The Second Amendment

A recent topic of debate in the United States is gun control, with pro-gun control groups facing off against staunch Second-Amendment supporters. Recently this topic has been so prominent because our country has had a large outbreak of mass shootings. According to ABC News there was an average of one mass shooting a month in 2018. Although gun control has always been a topic of discussion, statistics show that since 2012 (when the Parkland Elementary school shooting occurred) the disagreement against the Second Amendment has increased largely. Several bills have been introduced to regulate and change gun laws. Multiple gun control groups like American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention and the Americans for Responsible Solutions started to speak out more about the Second Amendment. This inflamed the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun-advocating groups.

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I am very passionate about gun control. I am originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; many people think of Pittsburgh as a traditionally safe and happy place, a place where everyone is like one big family. October 28, 2018, was a very sad day in my community. A man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire inside the Tree of Life Synagogue, located only 15 minutes from my house in Squirrel Hill. The shooter was armed with an AR-15-style assault rifle and at least three handguns. I felt personally victimized because my city prides itself on supporting each other: Pittsburgh loves Pittsburgh. We lost 11 “family members” and seven were seriously injured that utterly depressing morning. When I received the news I was speechless; it felt unreal. All I could think about was the question: “How could this happen in my home?” I pass the synagogue on a daily basis; it’s known as a place of peaceful worship. I myself have been to it several occasions for bar/bat mitzvahs growing up and know several families that belong to the synagogue.

In fact, in her article “It’s Time to Repeal — and Replace — the Second Amendment,” Elie Mystal from The Nation claims that “the Second Amendment is why we can’t go to school, or work, or a house of worship, or a nightclub, or a movie theater, or a music festival, or pretty much any public gathering without fear of getting shot to death. ” Mystal goes on to argue that it’s time to replace the Second Amendment with something that’s more up-to-date. This new replacement amendment would ideally take into account not only the recent mass shootings but also the advances in weapon technology that have produced automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons. However, according to Mystal, the debate surrounding the Second Amendment isn’t focused on replacing outdated legislation with something more relevant: “For some reason, the entire debate around the Second Amendment must be watered down so it doesn’t piss off the cultural sensibilities of those who want a constitutionally protected right to shoot wolves from a helicopter with a submachine gun — ‘like my grandpa did. ’” Though Mystal’s article has a snarky tone, she makes a good point. When people who support the Second Amendment refuse to acknowledge that the amendment is outdated, they end up making outlandish and unsupportable comparisons like the one Mystal suggests. Adding to Mystal’s argument, I would point out that — even if the “tradition” argument were valid — keeping people alive is more important than keeping traditions alive; to keep people from dying from gun-related violence, we need to revise or replace the Second Amendment. Many have put in efforts in order to rewrite the Second Amendment but have failed. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger once said in an interview on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, “If I were writing the Bill of Rights now, there wouldn’t be any such thing as the Second Amendment. . . the right of the people to keep and bear arms is one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special-interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime”.

I wholeheartedly endorse Burger’s claim that the right to bear arms is a “fraud”; what was originally intended to protect people is now doing harm in not only individual but mass events as well. In spite of this fact and Burger’s interview, which took place almost 30 years ago in 1991, there has been little attempt in Congress to change the Second Amendment. There has been no serious effort to actually sit down and rewrite the document. Hundreds of gun- and safety-based bills have been introduced to Congress. The Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 would outlaw the sale or possession of semi-automatic assault-style weapons. The Raise the Age Act would ban semi-automatic sales to anyone under 21 years old. The Keep America Safe Act would also ban most magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The Student and Teacher Safety Act would allow federal funds to go toward activities that “prevent gun violence” at schools, including physical barriers. The Safe Students Act would remove any federal bans on possessing a handgun at a school and would encourage more teachers and staff to carry firearms. With these bills, and others like them, the debate is about whether legislation like this would infringe on our rights guaranteed by the Constitution’s Second Amendment. Radical supporters of the Second Amendment advocate that gun control laws of any kind limit the right to bear arms, restricting rights that are guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Oftentimes, these arguments look to the wording of the Second Amendment for constitutional support: ‘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’.

In his article “Second Amendment Serves A Good Purpose,” Laurence H. Tribe from the Hartford Courant argues that repealing the Second Amendment would make American politics more divisive without stopping gun-based violence. According to Tribe, “The goal of erasing part of the Bill of Rights for the first time in 227 years is profoundly alarming to many and contributes to the divisions that have rendered our politics dysfunctional. ” This proves Mystal’s earlier point: the debate often doesn’t center around altering or updating the amendment, but instead focuses on completely removing or completely keeping the amendment as it currently stands. Tribe goes on to argue that people who want reform should not seek to repeal the Second Amendment but should look at “the addiction of lawmakers to the money of firearms manufacturers and other unimaginably wealthy funders. ” For people like Tribe, the answer is not in reforming or updating the amendment, but in following the money. He argues that cutting off this flow of gun-supporting funds would be more effective than repealing the Second Amendment, since it would change the financial incentive some lawmakers have to support the gun lobby.

While following the money may be a helpful part of the solution, I disagree with this overall view that we should keep the Second Amendment as-is, because it ignores a significant part of the issue: our Constitution was written in 1787, a time when our founding fathers would have never even imagined weapons as powerful as an AR-15. As Mystal also argues, “You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to conclude that this amendment is talking about the need for ‘militias,’ not an individual’s right to own a bazooka. ” Gun sports do suffer the consequences of the second amendment, but that is like when one person breaks the rules; it changes the whole game for everyone because they don’t know how to handle themselves, so then you are forced to follow the same rules. Although the second amendment has been imposed since the founding of our country mass shootings were never even a thought when the founders were writing our constitution. It has gone way too far and the fact that people still feel the need to try and defend the second amendment because they like to “collect” or they “don’t want to see the sport die” is pathetic; children are dying.

Yes, the Second Amendment states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed’ but is the right to bear arms so important that it is okay that it is infringing on children’s learning experiences and distracting them from their future? It is really sad to say that when I was a senior in high school I would sit in my class and think, “What would I do if there was an intruder in the school? Where would I go?” Change needs to happen, supporters of the second amendment need to realize the issue is so much larger than protecting their collection or a sport. Anyone with a rational mind set should agree that it is time for change. Ultimately, what is at stake here is children’s lives, and it’s only going to get worse over time if nothing is done.

31 October 2020

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