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“Americans Are Paying The Price In Blood”: Guns Kill People In The US Because We Pervert The Second Amendment

America’s gun violence, like our grief in Oregon, seems to know no bounds, no limits, no end. The reason is deadly simple: our very lives are chained to a constitutional amendment that is willfully misinterpreted by many and perverted by gun rights advocates for political ends.

That sullied amendment is the United States constitution’s Second Amendment which states, “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 gun industry and its supporters have turned that simple statement into a clever marketing tool, and Americans are paying the price in blood.

On Thursday, Roseburg, Oregon – a three-hour drive south of the Oregon’s largest city, Portland – was rocked by a deadly mass shooting that wounded seven people and took the lives of 10 others, including the gunman. Students were in classes at Umpqua Community College when a 26-year-old gunman shattered their world when he opened fire on them. They are, sadly, not unique: hardly a week has passed in the last three years without a mass shooting.

For 15 years, Ceasefire Oregon has fought the gun lobby – and people like Douglas County sheriff John Hanlin, the gun rights advocate who is investigating this latest shooting – and worked to pass reasonable, effective gun laws.

Hanlin is one of many who claim that the answer to gun violence is to help those who have mental health problems while the rest of us stock up on guns and ammo. Hanlin, gun extremists and groups like the National Rifle Association have scapegoated people with mental health problems for years – but they know that such people are far more likely to be victims of violence than the perpetrators of it (and far more likely to kill themselves than other people).

Gun rights advocates also claim that we need more guns to protect ourselves from gun violence. But with 310m firearms in the US, and despite the fact that one in every three Americans owns guns, more guns are not making us safer.

After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, we at Ceasefire Oregon worked with Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership, the Brady Campaign and the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety to pass a background check law despite opposition from a few Democratic legislators and a few Oregon sheriffs, including Hanlin. And, after years of work, Oregon finally passed a bill requiring background checks for almost all gun sales last spring.

But gun violence is a cancer in our nation and, just as no single drug will cure all cancers, no single gun law will cure all gun violence. Rather, we need comprehensive, effective legislation and caring, courageous leadership to change both America’s laws and Americans’ views on guns and gun violence. Too often, gun control advocates hear that nothing can be done to change things in this country, but that’s just not true.

Gun violence prevention researchers and advocates know that we can reduce gun violence by passing effective, common-sense laws, like background checks for all gun sales to stop criminals and those with demonstrated mental health issues and histories of violence from buying guns. Waiting periods between the time of gun purchase and possession can provide purchasers with a cooling-off period to help deter homicide and suicide. Instituting gun violence restraining orders can reduce violence by allowing family members and law enforcement to remove a gun from a loved one who is exhibiting warning signs of violence.

We can require – or at least heavily incentivize through liability statutes – that firearms be kept secured at all times with trigger locks or in a safe. We can reduce gun trafficking by allowing people to purchase only one gun per month. We can reinstate the federal assault weapons ban to ban the purchase and possession of high-capacity magazines and assault rifles, which are not necessary for the most dedicated home-defender or hunter.

And Americans can refuse to support lawmakers of any party who do not support “gun-sense” laws – like background checks, higher standards for gun ownership and funding for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms – at the ballot box. We can challenge all 2016 presidential candidates to issue a plan to cut gun violence by 50% before 2020 (the final year of the next president’s first term in office), and Ceasefire has done so.

We are citizens of a great nation, but our children, our mothers, our fathers and our friends are being mowed down, fed to the gun industry’s insatiable appetite for profit. Our founding fathers wrote the Second Amendment to protect our country. Now we must protect our country from those who pervert the Second Amendment.

We know this can be done. We know this must be done. Our national nightmare of paying into the gun lobby’s profit machine must be brought to an end.

 

By: Penny Okamoto, The Guardian, October 2, 2015

October 4, 2015 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association, Second Amendment | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What Did The Framers Really Mean?”: It Wasn’t To Trump The Public Good

Three days after the publication of Michael Waldman’s new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” Elliot Rodger, 22, went on a killing spree, stabbing three people and then shooting another eight, killing four of them, including himself. This was only the latest mass shooting in recent memory, going back to Columbine.

In his rigorous, scholarly, but accessible book, Waldman notes such horrific events but doesn’t dwell on them. He is after something else. He wants to understand how it came to be that the Second Amendment, long assumed to mean one thing, has come to mean something else entirely. To put it another way: Why are we, as a society, willing to put up with mass shootings as the price we must pay for the right to carry a gun?

The Second Amendment begins, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and that’s where Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, begins, too. He has gone back into the framers’ original arguments and made two essential discoveries, one surprising and the other not surprising at all.

The surprising discovery is that of all the amendments that comprise the Bill of Rights, the Second was probably the least debated. What we know is that the founders were deeply opposed to a standing army, which they viewed as the first step toward tyranny. Instead, their assumption was that the male citizenry would all belong to local militias. As Waldman writes, “They were not allowed to have a musket; they were required to. More than a right, being armed was a duty.”

Thus the unsurprising discovery: Virtually every reference to “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” — the second part of the Second Amendment — was in reference to military defense. Waldman notes the House debate over the Second Amendment in the summer of 1789: “Twelve congressmen joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms for self-defense, hunting or for any purpose other than joining the militia.”

In time, of course, the militia idea died out, replaced by a professionalized armed service. Most gun regulation took place at the state and city level. The judiciary mostly stayed out of the way. In 1939, the Supreme Court upheld the nation’s first national gun law, the National Firearms Act, which put onerous limits on sawed-off shotguns and machine guns — precisely because the guns had no “reasonable relation” to “a well-regulated militia.”

But then, in 1977, there was a coup at the National Rifle Association, which was taken over by Second Amendment fundamentalists. Over the course of the next 30 years, they set out to do nothing less than change the meaning of the Second Amendment, so that it’s final phrase — “shall not be infringed” — referred to an individual right to keep and bear arms, rather than a collective right for the common defense.

Waldman is scornful of much of this effort. Time and again, he finds the proponents of this new view taking the founders’ words completely out of context, sometimes laughably so. They embrace Thomas Jefferson because he once wrote to George Washington, “One loves to possess arms.” In fact, says Waldman, Jefferson was referring to some old letter he needed “so he could issue a rebuttal in case he got attacked for a decision he made as secretary of state.”

Still, as Waldman notes, the effort was wildly successful. In 1972, the Republican platform favored gun control. By 1980, the Republican platform opposed gun registration. That year, the N.R.A. gave its first-ever presidential endorsement to Ronald Reagan.

The critical modern event, however, was the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, which tossed aside two centuries of settled law, and ruled that a gun-control law in Washington, D.C., was unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. The author of the majority opinion was Antonin Scalia, who fancies himself the leading “originalist” on the court — meaning he believes, as Waldman puts it, “that the only legitimate way to interpret the Constitution is to ask what the framers and their generation intended in 1789.”

Waldman is persuasive that a truly originalist decision would have tied the right to keep and bear arms to a well-regulated militia. But the right to own guns had by then become conservative dogma, and it was inevitable that the five conservative members of the Supreme Court would vote that way.

“When the militias evaporated,” concludes Waldman, “so did the original meaning of the Second Amendment.” But, he adds, “What we did not have was a regime of judicially enforced individual rights, able to trump the public good.”

Sadly, that is what we have now, as we saw over the weekend. Elliot Rodger’s individual right to bear arms trumped the public good. Eight people were shot as a result.

 

By: Joe Nocera, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 26, 2014

May 27, 2014 Posted by | Mass Shootings, National Rifle Association, Second Amendment | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Grading John Paul Stevens’ Work”: When Rewriting The Second Amendment, Be As Specific As Possible

As the gun nuts will surely point out, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens doesn’t know how to distinguish automatic from semi-automatic firearms. I’ve never understood why this distinction is so important to gun nuts. As a legal matter, obviously it is important to know the difference. But the reason that non-gun enthusiasts make this mistake so often is because the semi-automatic weapons are so incredibly lethal that the distinction doesn’t make any practical difference to them. Does anyone think Adam Lanza’s semi-automatic weapon was inadequate to the job of killing 20 kids and 6 teachers in a couple of minutes?

It’s really the ease and quickness that killers like Lanza and James Eagan Jones Holmes (the Aurora, Colorado shooter) can mow down large groups of people that is the concern.

In any case, Stevens’ proposed amendment to the Second Amendment is sloppy. It would make it impossible for a National Guard officer to disarm an insubordinate underling.

As a result of the rulings in Heller and McDonald, the Second Amendment, which was adopted to protect the states from federal interference with their power to ensure that their militias were “well regulated,” has given federal judges the ultimate power to determine the validity of state regulations of both civilian and militia-related uses of arms. That anomalous result can be avoided by adding five words to the text of the Second Amendment to make it unambiguously conform to the original intent of its draftsmen. As so amended, it would read:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people   to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”

As we know, the wording of these things can get twisted over time. So, if you want to rewrite the Second Amendment you should be as specific as possible. I’d go with:

A well regulated Militia is no longer necessary to the security of a free State. We now call those things the Army Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Air Force Reserve, the Coast Guard Reserve, the Army National Guard of the United States, and the Air National Guard of the United States. If you serve in one of those Organizations, your weapon will be provided for you.

See, isn’t that better?

 

By: Martin Longman, Washington Monthly Political Animal, April 13, 2014

 

 

 

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, John Paul Stevens, Second Amendment | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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