When I was eleven years old I had my first experience with handguns.
My neighbor, Raymond was shooting at targets at his parents’ dry cleaning plant with a friend. His nine-year-old brother Andy came into the room to tell them that lunch was ready. When Andy turned around to leave the room, a gun fired. Andy fell, a bullet in his back. He died on the way to the hospital in his father’s truck.
The friend claimed that he had merely turned the gun over in his hand and that it had fired accidentally, but rumor swept through the neighborhood that he had aimed the weapon. I don’t think we’ll ever know, but I wonder how the friend has managed to reconcile himself with being responsible for the death of a child.
I remember exactly where I was, seated in the back left corner of Mrs. Baker’s sixth grade class, when we learned the news.
I remember teaching Andy to play baseball.
And, to this very day I think of Andy and what he might have become had he lived. Would he have outgrown that perpetually runny nose? Would he have played varsity baseball?
What would his position be on gun control?
What haunts me more almost fifty years after this tragic and traumatic event is that little has changed in regard to gun ownership.
Opponents of gun control constantly cite the Second Amendment to the Constitution to support their position. I think I must be reading a different document because I don’t understand it the way they do.
I’m not a Constitutional scholar, and I understand that the Bill of Rights was written in the English language in use over two hundred years ago, so, I would most appreciate your helping me understand the amendment, because I seem to be missing something.
The Amendment reads, “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.”
Let’s start at the beginning: “A well regulated Militia.” A militia is, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
1a: a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency; b: a body of citizens organized for military service; 2: the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service
Are individual gun owners “part of an organized armed forces liable to call only in emergency?” If they are not members of the National Guard or Reserves and therefore subject to call-up in an emergency, then I would say “no.”
Are individual gun owners a “body” organized for military service? Same as above.
Are individual gun owners to be considered the whole body of able-bodied male citizens “declared by law as being subject to call to military service?” Well, draft-eligible men may able-bodied citizens, but if they are not serving, are they still to be considered a militia? If they are out-of-shape couch potatoes, are they able-bodied? From everything I have heard and read, I believe this phrase derives from the time that we were fighting the British and our nascent nation depended on individuals and their personal weapons. This no longer holds true, right? We have our armed forces.
When I see the word “militia,” what comes to mind are anti-government survivalist groups that hang out in places like Montana. These groups are hardly working to make our country secure. They are interested in making things good for those of whom they approve, and minorities need not apply. And, handguns are not their weapons of choice.
Let’s now address the term “well-regulated?” Is the ownership and use of arms currently well-regulated? According to the Centers for Disease Control, 30,470 people died from gunshot wounds in the United States in 2010. Of those,19,392 (63.6%) were suicides, and 11,078 (36.4%) were homicides.
Do 30,470 deaths indicate that our so-called militia is “well-regulated?”
The NRA maintains that current gun control laws are sufficient to regulate the trade. And let’s not fool ourselves; the trade is huge. In 2012 alone, the firearms and ammunition industry was responsible for as much as $31.84 billion in total economic activity in the country.
So now we get to the phrase “…necessary to the security of a free State. Since this is the federal constitution, I assume this means the country, not individual states. A militia is designed to defend the security of the country. Frankly, if a foreign nation decides to attack us, I am pretty sure it will use something big and ugly. Guns aren’t going to be much help.
And, finally, “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.” Yes, people in the militia have the right to keep and bear Arms. While they are in the military. To secure the country.
So, how have people come to interpret this to mean that they can keep a weapons cache in their game rooms? That it is okay to horde automatic weapons capable of firing off hundreds of rounds of ammunition?
Aside from actual war, for what purpose can these automatic weapons exist?
For sport? Is it sportsmanlike to mow down an animal?
For food? Who wants a venison steak filled with lead?
Or, do they exist for the purpose of murdering movie goers, mall shoppers — and first graders?
I am always happy to learn new things, so if somebody can explain to me how I am misinterpreting the Second Amendment, I would most appreciate it.