Second Thoughts: Gun Control and the Second Amendment

by Jamie Neben

“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 Second Amendment of the United States Constitution

It’s impossible to make sense of the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut because something so horrific is absolutely senseless.  But one thing we can do, and certainly need to do, is try to figure out where to go from here, and the sooner the better.  The conversation is sure to include topics such as mental illness, family values, and living in a culture that glamorizes violence.  But the very hostile elephant in the room is the topic of gun control.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees its citizens the right to bear arms, so any perceived or real threat to that freedom makes many people understandably upset.  Occasionally, like as we’re witnessing now, we see a drastic spike in new weapon purchases based on the fear that guns will soon be severely restricted.  The fear is usually unfounded since the majority of those who want reform have not suggested that we go door-to-door and round up all the artillery, or even that we outlaw all future firearm sales.  On the other hand, a growing number of voices are calling for some kind of action.  They believe we cannot just stand by and do nothing at all.  Not anymore.  So we need a solution that preserves the second amendment but helps prevent future tragedies.

I am now supporting the cause to ban semi-automatic assault rifles such as the AR-15.  While I was previously on the fence about this issue, we’ve seen too much bloodshed happening far too often, with the assault rifle often being at the center of the carnage.  This is a weapon that is designed to fire off several rounds a second, and outside of a military or law enforcement context, I don’t know what useful purpose it has to serve society.  This change would not impact sales of other guns that are already legal.  But the AR-15 and others like it need to go.

I’ll list a few of the arguments against such a ban that I’ve been hearing and my responses to them.


Owning guns is a God given right.

Really?  I’m no theological scholar, and I don’t presume to know how the Almighty feels about this issue. But unless I’m missing a chapter, I’ve neither seen nor heard any mention of guns in the Bible.  Swords?  Lots of them.  Slingshots?  You betcha.  But no single biblical figure was ever struck by a bullet.  Honestly, I don’t know how a loving creator would approve of an instrument that has prematurely ended so many lives already and continues to do so each year.

Banning any type of “arms” is unconstitutional.

First of all, how should we define arms?  Bombs, hand grenades, and cannons would fall into that category but are considered illegal.  The uproar is not exactly deafening.  Most of us are also fine that fully automatic rifles are off the market.  So what’s the big deal about extending that to the semi-automatic variety?  We can still satisfy the intent of the second amendment as long as there’s access to other types of firearms, such as the types that were available when the bill of rights was actually drafted.

It won’t stop these violent attacks.

Of course, we’ll never eliminate all acts of violence.  But what if we could reduce the number of deaths by even ten percent?  What if we could keep someone from murdering a whole classroom of students in one fell swoop?  Isn’t that worth trying?  I don’t want to look a child (or anybody, for that matter) in the eyes and tell him or her that my right to own an AR-15 is more important than their right to live.  Do you?

If everyone was armed, we would have a better chance of preventing attacks.

Is that a good idea?  With all the short-tempered individuals walking around, do we really want them all packing heat?  What about the schools?  Are we going to turn all teachers into marshals?  Or does that only come with tenure?  The short answer is that we would only make the situation worse.  We would have chaos and more innocent people would get hurt.

We have to protect ourselves from the government.

Nonsense.  When’s the last we were under siege by our own government?  I can understand that tyranny was a valid concern in our nation’s infancy, given the common practice of the British monarchy.  Our history and values are just not consistent with that reality.  If there were to be a foreign invasion, I concede that assault rifles might actually be necessary.  In that case, perhaps each town can store them in an armory, sealed from the public.  Although this seems like an exception, it still does not put the rifles in the hands of the general public.

Many who buy semi-automatic rifles are collectors.

Ok, fine.  Here’s another possible solution.  Let’s sell the guns but stop manufacturing the ammunition.  We’d have to prevent the bullets from getting into our country from other places, but if we could, I’d be all for this alternative.  Then we could do away with waiting periods and background checks!

It’s too soon to have this discussion.

Guess what?  It’s always too soon and then it’s too late.  How long are we supposed to wait after a tragedy?  What happens if another attack occurs while we are still healing?  Whether it’s Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Tucson, and so on, we’ve waited long enough. The possible victims of tomorrow need us to act now.  Let’s do it.

Let’s save lives.

6 thoughts on “Second Thoughts: Gun Control and the Second Amendment

  1. America should look at ths how Australia responded to a mass shooting back in 1996. Look at the story on from Friday’s All Things Considered.

  2. Paul,

    Thank you for your comment. I heard the NPR piece and I believe we should follow Australia’s example. A number of cities have gun buyback programs already in place (some places are moving up the dates) and I understand there were some record-setting turnouts this week. Hopefully, that will continue and more areas will participate in that. As far as the laws are concerned, aside from my call to ban semi-automatic weapons, you would think it’s a no-brainer that background checks and waiting periods be mandatory in every state, at gun shows, and online. I would even suggest a national database similar to a no-fly list be implemented to flag people with violent or mentally unstable histories. Change will be difficult though with the NRA predictably stating that we need more guns, not less, including armed guards in every school. As long as the mentality of the average NRA member and FOX News viewer remains the same (“I’ll hand over my weapon when you pry it out of my cold dead hand”), I’m not too optimistic that any reform will be quite strong enough. But we still have to try.

  3. I have read all the arguments and agree with your positions in your commentary. I don’t like guns. Period. I didn’t even like my sons pointing their finger or a stick at me, or others, pretending it was a gun. I agree that residents can have a licensed gun in their possession for their protection, but it shouldn’t be used indiscrimantly or flashed for show. Many tragedies would be prevented if guns were not so readily handy, as in the Travan Martin case, or drive-by shootings or to “settle” an argument. They are to be used , in the home, if severely threatened. There is a time and place for home usage guns, or rifles for hunters, but assault weapons are unneccessary in a civil society, except for military use. There are members within my husband’s family who agree with the need for guns and post all kinds of quotations on the fact, with the pictures. I agree, but not guns that shoot and kill many children in a classroom-my grandson could have been one of them in a couple of years- and their teachers, or shoot firemen as they answer a call, with no chance to defend themselves. I have also read the Second Amendment and it was written for its time. I agree that weapons for a militia could be kept under lock and key IF the occasion ever arose for defense against the government.
    My husband and I went to a movie theater today, and I must say, I had a few moments
    of wondering if someone might enter with a weapon. I answered myself by saying, “nah, not in this quiet setting, at this time of day”. But, who knows? I certainly don’t want to go through life wondering if I’ll be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    So, I do believe that there should be a serious discussion about at least re-authorizing the assault weapon ban. It worked for many years at slowing the rate of availability of those high powered weapons and ammunition. There is no time like the present.

  4. Lynne,

    Thank you for your astute observations. Let’s look at it this way. If handguns and rifles are like marijuana, then semi-automatic assualt rifles are heroin. We hardly blink an eye at recreational pot use now, and indeed it’s been recently made legal by voters in two states, and is decriminalized in many others. But the potential danger to society is too great with heroin to allow it to be legal, and it’s proven to be that way with assault rifles as well. Even if the actual number of attacks is low, the risk of mass annihilation is much too great.

  5. Unfortunately, too many people have dabbled in “recreational drugs” and if continued, their tolerance for it increases so that they graduate to a harder grade. So it is with guns. The “unbalanced” users may start with hand guns, move to rifles , or have hunted with them, and then upgrade to the assault weapons. Once they’ve experienced the rush or thrill of using them, it is nothing to use them in sick situations. This is but a portion of society. Not all drug users upgrade, nor to all gun users. However, this is the portion that needs to have the availability removed for their own sake and for the sake of others. Gun buy back programs are a start, but are but the tip of the iceberg. As implied before, let’s get the conversation started toward removing the availability of the most deadly of the gun upgrades. It also should go without saying that all guns need to be in the hands of only responsible, trained users.

  6. Yes, if it were only that easy to know who the responsible, trained people are or who they (or anyone in their home) associate with. That’s why, to your point, we need to remove the availabilty of the most potentially devasating weapons because of the unknown risk.

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