As I pointed out in an earlier post, guns and gun violence are a part of American culture. But there is another complex aspect of dealing with gun violence in America. Americans have a fundamental legal right to own guns. It is part of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, set up by the original founders of the United States. The law (the second amendment to the Constitution) 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 last part of the amendment seems pretty clear. “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But Americans do have laws that restrict the ownership of certain types of weapons. For example, I like Cannons and Mortars. I am even trained in how to use them. But it is illegal for me to own one without all kinds of bureaucratic paperwork, checks and investigations. The same thing goes for machine guns, or automatic weapons. Poisonous gases, like Phosgene or Mustard gas, are outright illegal, even though they are technically “Arms”. Due to the lethality of all of these kinds of weapons, I believe most everyone agrees that their ownership and use require extreme oversight and sensible restrictions.
The first part of the amendment is somewhat vague, but it gets at the all important “intent” of the law, the reason for it existing. It seems to me that the intent of the law allowing Americans to have guns is to protect the country (the “free state”). And that the protection comes from armed citizens forming militias. I believe that this was because when the United States was created, it could not defend itself with a standing army. Militias were necessary then.
Many today say that it is still necessary to be armed to be protected from a “tyrannical government”. I ask such people if they would really be willing to shoot at American soldiers and police officers. Because that is what this line of thinking means. Some actually did that once (individually, AND as organized militias). It was called the American Civil War, and it was not a good experience. Today, advances in weaponry, plus the ability of the state to support a large standing Army, make the “Militia” irrelevant. The best a “militia” could do today is wage a guerilla war against an occupier, but this is a far cry from providing national security.
What to Do
There is a lot of debate, and it is valid. Americans can reach compromises that will go a long way towards fixing the problem, but it cannot be eliminated in the short term. There are too many guns already in the hands of bad actors, and no law is going to change that overnight.
Neither extreme is viable. You cannot outlaw gun ownership and confiscate guns. First off, Americans won’t allow this to happen politically, and second, even if you tried to do this, only lawbreakers would have guns (leaving decent people relatively defenseless).
On the other hand, we don’t want the “Wild West” either, with everyone allowed to own any kind of weapon. We already know this, and as I stated earlier, the ownership of certain kinds of weapons is already either illegal or severely restricted.
I personally am OK with restricting semi-automatic weapons to those who can pass strict background and security investigations. I am ok if this takes a while and involves expense, training, and paperwork. I think it is also OK to ban things that try to turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones (bump stocks or trigger cranks). No one defending themselves or their home needs such things.
I think that a requirement for being certified in gun safety before owning one is a good thing too. The most tragic thing on the news is about kids killing themselves or others with guns, with AMMO IN THEM, that are left lying around.