Liberal

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 mahacker@syr.edu and followed on Twitter @mikeincuse. 

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