The Right to Bear Arms
US Constitution | Amendment II
Right to Bear Arms
(1) Take a moment to READ and CONSIDER this second amendment.
It is short enough to be tweeted, yet its consequences are often a matter of life or death. It is a powerful right and undoubtedly worthy of continued debate.
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.”
Passed by Congress September 25, 1789. Ratified December 15, 1791.
(2) Watch this 15 minute video (WARING! ADULT CONTENT & ADULT LANGUAGE)
Humor can often be an effective way to contemplate even the most serious of subject matters. Regardless of your position on this controversial topic, you will find many of the relevant issues presented here by Aussie comedian Jim Jeffries hilariously provocative.
There is nothing funny about the number of lives lost to gun violence or the concern of law-abiding Americans who want to protect themselves in an increasingly violent world, but Aussie Jim Jeffries uses humor effectively here… getting us to take a hard look at our US constitution’s second amendment.
(3) Review the following scenarios; then consider the consequences of gun regulation:
A 19-yr old woman, an experienced gun owner, well-trained in the use of firearms, was brutally raped while on her campus ~ a “gun-free zone”. The rapist got away and a few weeks later raped and killed another young woman.
Had Sarah been carrying her weapon, she would most likely have been able to defend herself; the additional likely consequence is that the second woman would not have been raped and killed.
Noah, a 19-yr old un-medicated paranoid schizophrenic, takes a legally purchased weapon from the home of his parents and murders 12 children between the ages of 5 and 11 at the local school playground.
Had Noah not had access to that AK-15 those children would still be alive.
No argument, correct?
Not so fast. The responses to these two fact-based scenarios would likely reveal a nation divided. We do argue. More accurately, we “quibble” over the what if alternatives of these scenarios. We quibble over whether Sarah would have been able to pull the trigger; whether the perpetrator might have been able to overpower her and use that same gun to kill Sarah. We quibble about the possibility that Noah could have driven a car into the playground and killed the same number of children. We quibble over whether Noah would have committed this heinous act had he been properly medicated.
Anyone who can read, knows what the second amendment means. Really?
Perhaps our most distracting quibble, which is generally regarded as a matter for scholarly debate, is over what the second amendment, the Right to Bear Arms, really means. Appropriately, we leave this determination to our judicial system, as our founding fathers intended. However, our founding fathers also intended to allow us to modify, even repeal, some elements of our constitution. So the question is not ‘what does our second amendment mean?’, the question is ‘what do WE WANT our second amendment, the Right to Bear Arms, to look like today, in 2015?’ It’s OK; our founding fathers expected us to modify our constitution. They specifically made provisions for us to do so. Not only CAN we change things, sometimes we SHOULD change things.
THREE SIMPLE QUESTIONS
Assuming we are not going to move quickly to a Utopian state where guns are forever banned and never even missed, there are really only three simple questions facing us today:
(1) Is it reasonable to consider limiting our right to bear arms by restricting WHO is afforded that right? (#consider: convicted felons, mentally ill)
(2) Is it reasonable to consider limiting our right to bear arms by restricting WHERE we allow those arms to be carried/used? (#consider: airports, the white house)
(3) Is it reasonable to consider limiting our right to bear arms by specifying WHAT precisely is meant by “arms”? (#consider: automatic weapons, nuclear weapons)
IT IS THE COMPLEXITY WHICH UNDERMINES CHANGE
There is tremendous and passionate division pertaining to this second amendment right; however, our real challenge is that, even in the areas in which there is great consensus, there is much complexity.
Θ Who should be afforded the right to bear arms.
Let’s first consider the ubiquitous view that guns should not be owned by mentally ill individuals. How do we define, “mentally ill”, let alone determine who will be labeled as such. A properly medicated individual with a diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia is no more likely to be aggressive than any other member of the population. Do we strip this person of his rights because of that diagnosis? What about someone who is suffering, or has suffered, with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)? Do we remove their right to bear arms forever? And of course, the real problem regarding mental illness is that it is often undiagnosed until tragedy strikes.
Θ Where should those with that right be allowed to carry/use their “arms”?
How would 9/11 have played out if some or all of the passengers on those planes were armed with guns. It is hard to imagine the scenario playing out much worse than it did. But wait, then I suppose the terrorists would have been armed with guns as well and presumably far more likely to use them than the rest of the souls on those planes. How many times has a terrorist act been averted because getting a weapon on-board an aircraft in a post 9/11 is so difficult?
Θ What does the term “arms” mean?
Given that most constitutional scholars agree that the second amendment was really intended to allow the people to arm against the government, how do we determine what is meant by “arms”. Governments circa 2015 have nuclear weapons, drones, SEALS, Special Op forces, etc.). It seems the second amendment is woefully incapably of ensuring our capacity to form a well regulated militia with the intent of securing our free State, unless, as absurd as this may sound, it provides our right to all and any arms ~ including nuclear weapons.
There is so much to consider and the consequences are quite literally a matter of life and death.
Θ We are living in times when video games, movies, television and media of all sorts have without doubt desensitized us to violence.
Θ We are living in times when the elevated fear levels of many people may actually be appropriate to the threat posed by terrorism and crime.
Θ We are living in times when the sophistication of weaponry is ever-increasing and the ease of its acquistion jaw-dropping.
Θ Fortunately it also seems that we are living in times when intellectual inquiry is both spirited and prized, and compassion and regard for others less often takes a back seat.
We need to stop the chaotic and unproductive quibbling and engage in non-partisan, informed and intelligent dialogue. We should give special interest groups only the attention they deserve and consider their needs and desires, as well as our own individual needs and desires, in the very long shadow of what is best for our country as a whole.