Hacker: Reliance on Second Amendment supports epidemic of gun violence

Gun rights advocates frequently assert their claims using the phrase, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” This is true. Guns do not kill people, but people with guns kill people.

On Tuesday, Illinois became the last state in the nation to pass a law allowing the public to carry concealed weapons. The law permits anyone with a Firearm Owner’s Identification card who has passed a background check and undergone 16 hours of gun-safety training to obtain a concealed-carry permit.

With the passage of the Illinois law, citizens in all 50 states can now secretly carry deadly firearms in public areas.

There is an epidemic of gun violence in this country. This epidemic will continue unnoticed until gun-rights advocates relinquish the claim that the Second Amendment provides non-military citizens the right to arm themselves with any number of deadly weapons.

The Second Amendment was intended for the formation of a civilian militia. That purpose has been lost in modernization.

Nowadays, media attention has become focused on guns and gun laws following mass-murder tragedies. This creates the illusion that gun violence occurs rarely and only in extreme situations, such as school shootings.

But the truth is that in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control, 30 people are murdered by people using guns every day.

The United States has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership (the second highest is Yemen). The United States also has the highest homicide rate of any developed democracy — four times higher than France and the United Kingdom, six times higher than Germany. Guns are involved in two-thirds of all homicides.

In 1791, when the Bill of Rights was adopted, guns were cumbersome things that could only fire one round in 60 seconds. The founding fathers were suspicious of standing armies. Today, guns can fire more than 60 rounds per minute and the United States has the largest organized military in the world.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said, “I wish to God [the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary] had had an M-4 in her office.” A week later, Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) issued a 225-page report recommending that lawmakers put armed guards in schools across the United States. The report was funded by the National Rifle Association.

Columbine High School had an armed guard on duty during the April 1999 shooting, and Virginia Tech had its own campus police force. In neither case were these armed forces able to stop the killing.

Gun rights advocates rely on the Second Amendment to justify the legality of owning the same military-style weapons Adam Lanza and James Holmes used to commit violent massacres of innocent people. But when did the Second Amendment become a banner for gun-wielding Americans? Actually, quite recently.

Many believe the Second Amendment provides the citizens’ right to arm themselves for self-defense, rather than for a common-defense militia. However, this belief only became prevalent after the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

In fact, the Second Amendment used to be referred to as the “forgotten amendment” due to the lack of attention paid to it by the courts.

The Second Amendment reads: “For the purpose of a well-regulated militia, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It is one long, grammatically incorrect sentence.

If we rely on common syntactical sense, the portion “for the purpose of a well-regulated militia” should negate the claim that the Second Amendment provides citizens with the right to arm themselves for any other purpose. Even if this purpose is legal, it is unnecessary and outdated.

Our founding fathers would be dismayed by gun-owners’ continued reliance on the Second Amendment. It is sad that this is even a conversation. Hopefully, the conversation will soon produce legislation to curb our country’s obsession with guns and end the illogical reliance on the Second Amendment.

Michael Hacker is a senior political science major. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter @mikeincuse. 

  • Anonymous

    I would thank you for putting such a long list of gun control tripe together for easier debunking, but it has been done before.

  • spencer60

    “…citizens in all 50 states can now secretly carry deadly firearms in public areas.”

    You sir, are an idiot if you don’t think that criminals already ‘secretly carry’ these ‘deadly firearms’ in public areas.

    Actually, I’m wondering about your intelligence anyways, since literally everything you say you get wrong.

    “There is an epidemic of gun violence in this country…”

    Hardly. In fact violent crimes with firearms have dropped almost 50% over the last 20 years. This according to the CDC, since you seem to trust their stats (as do I, generally).

    And picking out ‘gun violence’ is a distortion in and of itself.

    Take a look at where the US ranks in overall violent crime. We’re actually far safer than any ‘gun free’ countries like S Africa and the UK (which has a violent crime rate more than 4 times higher than the US).

    You also say that the US has the highest homicide rate of any ‘developed democracy’, what ever that’s supposed to mean. My guess it’s so you can cherry-pick the numbers so the the US comes out as the highest. Maybe you should add in ‘has red in their national flag’ as well?

    You’re argument that the people who wrote the Constitution couldn’t foresee ‘modern firearms’ simple wrong. The people who wrote that were very aware of the changes in technology.

    After all, one of the main reasons the US beat the British was the uniquely American long-rifle being accurate about 300 yards, something the British couldn’t match with their smooth-bore, Brown Bess muskets.

    In fact, the Founders could easily have written in restrictions on what ‘arms’ they believed people should be able to own. Just like they could have specified that the First Amendment only related to pen-and-ink writing.

    They didn’t because they wanted the population to be able to keep and bear all ‘arms’, not just ones they picked out. Their sole intent was to prevent the government from disarming the people, under any pretense, as anyone who looks into the matter at all can plainly see.

    Also, you can see that you are not an English major… Your ‘syntactic analysis’ of the Second Amendment is laughable. The introductory clause is just that, introductory. It does not ‘negate’ the rest of the sentence.

    Overall, the 2nd is a very straight-forward Amendment. People make much of ‘regulated’, but in the 1700’s that simply meant ‘well trained’ or ‘disciplined’.

    The same is true of ‘militia’. The gun control lobby wants us to think that means the National Guard, but it’s always meant any citizen able to take arms on behalf of their country.

    The reason that the 2nd is ‘the forgotten Amendment’ is simply, until the gun control lobby set it’s sights on law abiding firearms owners in 1968, it was never needed.

    However that has changed, and the same Supreme Court that overturned restrictions on same-sex marriage has also formally recognized that the 2nd Amendment is an ‘individual’ right, just like all of the others.

    That means that the right ‘to keep and bear arms’ is a personal right that every US citizen inherently has, and that the government is prevented from infringing on that right.

    Last but not least, your comment that “Our founding fathers would be dismayed by gun-owners’ continued reliance on the Second Amendment” is simply wrong.

    Take two seconds and search for some of the memorable quotes about the right to bear arms the founders left for posterity. There are dozens in common use, even today.

    Take a few hours and read some of the thoughts by the people who were involved with framing this country’s constitution. The right to keep and bear arms was central to their their vision of a free country.

    Now take a long hard look at history. Look at where and how tyranny and genocide happens, even in this oh-so ‘modern’ world you think we live in.

    One thing you’ll notice, the victims are never, ever armed.

    The people who founded this country knew this one critical fact. You need to learn it as well.

  • Mgh999

    You sir are an idiot.

    a. The second does not convey any right. It is a rule prohibiting Government from infringing on an innate right…read the words “the right of the people shall not be infringed.” Where does it say “the people have the right to…” It doesn’t. Just like the first reads “Congress shall pass no law…”

    b. The reason behind preventing Government from infringing on the right to keep and bear arms is to provide the people a means to resist Government tyranny. The only way to give freedom teeth is to ensure the people had an adequate means. Disarming the people takes away those means. In fact one could argue we are at a disadvantage…the people in general are limited to semi-automatic rifles while the “equivalent” military version is a full select fire (full auto/semi auto) rifle.

    c. Ignoring for one minute 74% of all murders are committed by persons with prior felonies (thus unable to legally own a gun) who 90% of their time get their guns through already illegal means and 6 of their top 10 weapon choices are revolvers…taken on a death per gun basis the death per driver rate is 3x as high.

    Of the 9,500 that were killed in 2012, 500 were justified (police shoot criminal) and 6,600 by criminals that leaves 2,340…there are 47,000,000 households estimated to own the 300,000,000 guns. 99.995% of armed households commit zero gun crimes.

    d. Less than 50 people were murdered in 2012 with semi-automatic rifles. 5,500 we killed by distracted (texting) drivers.

    e. In 1770 vernacular well regulated = well armed, well trained. Militia was every able body man. Training was a self expectation and dealt with the proficiency of arms not military like exercises. In fact, able bodied men without arms were provide arms (and billed for them).

    f. And yet you ignore the armed citizen that stopped the Oregon mall shooter by merely covering him with weapon (zero shots fired)..until the shooter heard sirens and decided to kill himself. The Columbine guard was outside the school at the time of shooting and actually may have saved additional lives by drawing fire.

    g. In fact your VA tech argument perhaps reinforces the right to carry. The police can’t be everywhere (and court decisions have verified they don’t have a duty to protect any given individual but the community in general), thus they are often left solving the crime not preventing it. Would armed citizens create a free for all? Not likely. See my point above – shooter stopped, zero shots fired. You walk by concealed carry gun holders every day (unless you live in a communist state like IL) and never know it. In fact IL lost their defense of banning right to carry in part due to statistics that showed concealed carry holder significantly less likely to commit a gun crime than an average citizen.

  • Levitt

    Oh please, Neil Gardner did not “save lives” because he drew fire with Eric Harris. Harris could have ignored the fire and continued on his way without a whiff of pause. Harris chose to shoot at Gardner because he’d always wanted a shoot out with a cop. Those three or four shots most definitely did not reduce the Columbine body count, and Harris was never at any real risk of being injured.

    It’s all and well and good to debunk other people’s statements, but at least do it accurately and not with hokum.

  • williamdiamon

    You are confusing criminal culture with gun culture. Weapons in the hands of criminals are a terrible thing, guns in the hands of the law abiding are a good thing. So, guns are good. Go to the FBI’s site and tell me the data doesn’t confirm my statement. This site is not “pro-gun” is it? But you will see citizens justifiably shoot almost as many criminals as police do. That means someone stopped a criminal from committing a murder, rape, arson, kidnap of minor, or great bodily harm. These are the only times anyone can use deadly force. That means someone else got to go home that night. Alive. And the bad guy didn’t get away. Good thing, right? Citizens are the criminal’s targets. They usually avoid the police. That means most of these intended crimes never get completed, that’s more good news. Why do you seam to be standing on the side of criminals, madmen and tyrants who like you, want us disarmed. Where do you get the idea that guns are bad?….. As to the2nd, Use your search engine to find the meaning of “regulated” when the Bill of Rights were written. The phrase “well-regulated” was in common use long before 1791. It referred to the property of something being in proper working order. Something that was well-regulated was calibrated correctly, functioning as expected. Establishing government oversight of the people’s arms was not only not the intent in using the phrase in the 2nd amendment, it was precisely to render the government powerless to do so that the founders wrote it. In it’s use in the 2nd it refers to militia members, -not guns-. How does the federal government “regulate” something they are not to “infringe”? Where do you draw the line comparing “not overly restrictive” to “shall not be infringed”? Yes, you can interpret it as the founders wrote it, maintaining it’s proper meaning. Or you can construe the words to twist it’s meaning into anything you want. But that would make you seam silly or disingenuous at best, a liar at worst. But as the benefactor of these people’s courage, lives and fortunes you should feel a great shame. To be blessed by their wisdom and struggle to make you free, you insist on interpreting their words to twist the true intent into a lie.

  • MrApple

    “With the passage of the Illinois law, citizens in all 50 states can now secretly carry deadly firearms in public areas.”

    You mean that law abiding citizens in all 50 states can now LEGALLY, secretly carry those deadly firearms in public. Criminals have been secretly carrying deadly firearms in public since the invention of the handgun.

    “This epidemic will continue unnoticed until gun-rights advocates relinquish the claim that the Second Amendment provides non-military citizens the right to arm themselves with any number of deadly weapons.”

    District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)
    “Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in Heller, stated:
    Nowhere else in the Constitution does a “right” attributed to “the people” refer to anything other than an individual right. What is more, in all six other provisions of the Constitution that mention “the people,” the term unambiguously refers to all members of the political community, not an unspecified subset. This contrasts markedly with the phrase “the militia” in the prefatory clause. As we will describe below, the “militia” in colonial America consisted of a subset of “the people”— those who were male, able bodied, and within a certain age range. Reading the Second Amendment as protecting only the right to “keep and bear Arms” in an organized militia therefore fits poorly with the operative clause’s description of the holder of that right as “the people”.”

    “The Second Amendment was intended for the formation of a civilian militia. That purpose has been lost in modernization.”

    The author of this 2nd Amendment hack piece is listed as a “senior political science major”. And yet this tired, old Liberal drivel comes from the mind of this college educated man. It would seem that he must have sleep through a few of his history and political science courses. The 2nd Amendment clearly states “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It does not claim the right of the militia/members of a militia to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Someone get this guy a copy of the Constitution.

  • TopCat_Texas

    Your statement was very well done. Thanks

  • Halftone175

    Violence has gone down over the last 20 years
    There is an epidemic of new articles reporting fewer crimes in more sensational ways leading the unknowing public to think that violent crime involving guns is on the rise when in fact it it not.

  • DClan

    “Common syntactical sense” does not apply to a document written in the 1700’s, where use of a preamble to provide support of a declaration was “common”. If you use the preamble to dictate your interpretation, then you could reinterpret the entire constitution or any other document written during that period. If you truly want to understand the amendments as they were written, then you should read the associated Federalist papers for each amendment. In all likelihood however, since that would undermine and refute your ridiculous arguments, you probably won’t ( or you have and hope nobody else does ).

  • Anonymous
  • jpvoodoo

    “This epidemic will continue unnoticed until gun-rights advocates relinquish the claim that the Second Amendment provides non-military citizens the right to
    arm themselves with any number of deadly weapons.

    The Second Amendment was intended for the formation of a civilian militia. That purpose has been lost in modernization.”

    You answered your own question.

    The PEOPLE retain the right to keep and bear arms because a well-regulated MILITIA is NECESSARY to the security of a free state. MILITIA implies that we are to keep and bear arms of the type and number suitable for military service against an EQUIVALENT army. A modern army will not be carrying muskets, rather it will be equipped with modern semi-automatic rifles and multiple rounds. The founders understood that we need to be prepared to form a militia at any moment. To do that, the citizens need to have adequate firepower on hand at any moment. The purpose you mentioned is as relevant to day as when the constitution was ratified.

  • fsilber

    If the government had kept the crime rate down to 1950s levels in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, maybe no one would have thought of resurrecting this right. But anywhere the government does not keep our communities free of muggers and burglars, the individual right to bear arms remains relevant.

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