It’s been a little over a year since Sandy Hook. We followed the story closely. We all shared the same misery. We got to know the victims, as well as the gunman. Then it all just went away. But only in our minds.
As our memories fade, the parents, families and friends remember that day, and exactly what happened, as if it were yesterday. They know, in their hearts, that this tragedy could have been prevented if we had just put some more effective forms of gun control in action.
The big picture is, does our society need guns? Can’t we strengthen the process of obtaining firearms to protect our citizens from senseless violence, while still protecting their Second Amendment rights?
The Case for Gun Control
Like Sandy Hook, many mass shootings could have been prevented, such as Columbine. What is standing in the way is that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to bear arms. But, our forefathers weren’t thinking about assault rifles and automatic weapons. The primary cause of the issue we are facing as a nation is that the Second Amendment does not include any regulation about caliber or magazine size. If this loophole were closed, it would keep the Second Amendment intact, but would prevent citizens from having certain types of firearms.
Another problem that we face as a nation is that our federal government has bowed to pressure by the NRA (National Rifle Association) and other gun lobbies funded by gun manufacturers. Taking actions to put a ban on certain assault weapons it would result in an uproar by the NRA and the gun lobbies, who are already feeling as though their Second Amendment rights are being challenged by repeated attempts to amend gun control laws following each mass shooting.
On the other side of the argument are the parents, family members, and friends of victims, and survivors of mass shootings. They are saying that gun control should be put into action immediately. Since 1982, 60 mass shootings have occurred in the U.S., with 25 mass shootings have occurred since 2006, and seven mass shootings in 2012 alone. Of the 143 guns seized in these crimes, three-fourths of them were obtained legally, mostly consisting of assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns.
Types of Weapons to be Banned
Advocates of stricter gun control laws argue that it shouldn't be so easy to have access to weapons as powerful as the one used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook massacre. Assault rifles, carbines, handguns, machine pistols, light machine guns, grenades, sub machine guns, and launchers should be banned as citizens do not need these types of weapons in the manner the Second Amendment intended.
In 1994, Congress passed a federal assault weapons ban that lasted 10 years. However, that legislation is due to expire this year. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she would introduce new legislation to ban assault weapons at the start of the next Congress. President Obama has also said that he'd support a federal ban.
The Gun Show Loophole
Experts that have studied the laws around gun show sales tend to agree that gun show laws offer the opportunity to bypass the typical paperwork required to purchase a gun. These loopholes result in the laws being generally ineffective at curbing gun violence.
Those concerned about these events claim that American gun shows are a primary source of illegally trafficked firearms, both within the United States and abroad, and may well have increased mass shootings.
Gun Laws in Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Constitution states:
“The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defense. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.”
Class A and Class B licenses are defined as:
“A Class A license shall entitle a holder thereof to purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry: (i) firearms, including large capacity firearms, and feeding devices and ammunition therefor, for all lawful purposes… and (ii) rifles and shotguns, including large capacity weapons, and feeding devices and ammunition.”
“A Class B license shall entitle a holder thereof to purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry: (i) non-large capacity firearms and feeding devices and ammunition.”
Recently, a task force established to review the events in Newtown found that Massachusetts gun laws can benefit from being further tightened to make it harder for people with criminal backgrounds or histories of mental illness to be able to purchase guns.
In 2011 U.S. Representative Gabriel Giffords was shot at a Tucson, AZ supermarket. A popular public figure, her shooting captured the attention of the American public. We watched on the news as she staged a somewhat miraculous comeback from a serious head trauma. Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly have used their public platform created by her shooting to become outspoken critics of the lack of progress in the county’s failure to pass stronger gun control measures. An example is this quote from Ms. Giffords following the 2012 Newtown shooting.
“Senators say they fear the N.R.A and the gun lobby. But I think that fear must be nothing compared to the fear the first graders in Sandy Hook Elementary School felt as their lives ended in a hail of bullets”
U.S. Supreme Court Decisions that Deal with the Second Amendment
Following are four of the landmark cases over the years impacting the Second Amendment:
· In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court limited the reach of the Second Amendment to the federal government. Since the decision involved a state criminal trial the court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment governed.
· In United States v. Miller (1938), the Court ruled that the right to bear arms provided by the Second Amendment is connected to the “Common obligation” of citizens to serve in the militia. This decision supported federal gun control legislation.
· District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) upheld the individual’s right to possess firearms lawfully, such as for self-defense.
· In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that individuals’ second amendment rights are built into the Fourteenth Amendment, and therefor applied to the states.
Does the Second Amendment still make sense? Does our society really still need guns? Times have changed in the 225 years since the Bill of Rights was drafted. But, if we do believe the right to bear arms is a fundamental freedom, let’s at least strengthen the process of obtaining firearms to protect U.S. citizens. If we can’t prevent mass shootings, we can at least significantly decrease their frequency by rewriting the Second Amendment and creating gun control laws. Limit the calibers and magazine sizes. Limit the types of guns available to “collectors.” Curtail the influence of the NRA and gun lobbies, and take the reins on this issue. If just one child’s life is saved, isn’t it worth it? I think so!