Should the second amendment be under fire?

Graphic by Melanie Lust '19

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Gun violence: the disease we refuse to cure

Andrew Vester ’17

Gunman massacres 20 children at school in Connecticut;” “Gunman kills 12 in Colorado Movie Theater;” “14 dead in California in mass shooting.” These headlines have appeared far too often in our newspapers and on our televisions, and we’ve unfortunately grown far too accustomed to hearing about the tragic killing of innocent friends and family at businesses, colleges and elementary schools.

The use of guns in these abominable murders is often ignored, with many saying that military-grade weapons—designed with the sole purpose of killing humans—are not the problem. Many of our fellow citizens insist that, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” but this argument is misleading, because many violent crimes would be harder to commit or could be prevented entirely if the people who had guns could not obtain them in the first place. It’s for this reason that a ban on all assault-style weapons and an end to the “gun show loophole,” which allows for unmarked and fluid transactions of guns, needs to be implemented in our nation.

As residents of Westport, all of us are familiar with the heinous crimes of the Newtown massacre. The assault weapons used to take 20 children and six staff members lives were legally obtained by the shooter’s mother. We all know there is no reason for anyone in Connecticut to own a war-waging weapon. Newtown is one of the safest cities in the state, and it’s impossible to even think of a reason why someone would need a weapon designed to kill if that’s not their intention.

After Sep. 11, our society was prepared to take all actions to ensure that such a tragic event never happen again within our borders, so what makes these  gun  murders any different?

Following instances of terrible gun violence, steps are often taken to treat the symptoms rather than the root cause. Take Staples, for example. During the summer of 2014, the glass on the ground floors was reinforced, and automatically locking door handles were installed on all the doors. These security measures will aid in slowing the progress of a shooter should that day ever happen, but they won’t help to prevent one. Just as a good doctor treats the issue from which all major problems stem, we need to attack guns at their root instead of helping to reduce the severity of the problems which result from them. The cure for the disease of gun violence is comprehensive legislation which bars assault weapons and closes the gun show loophole.

Many people buy their weapons at gun shows as these are one of the most facile and utilized ways to obtain weapons. At gun shows, no background check is required; buyers do not need to give their full names. Guns are paid for in cash, and oftentimes there is no receipt of the transaction. Anyone in attendance could buy a weapon, even one as deadly as a military-grade assault rifle. This process is akin to the old days of the Wild West whereby unnecessary and entirely preventable violence will continue to ruin the lives of thousands of victims of shootings, and to continue to allow guns to be bought and sold this easily is a gross slap-in-the-face to people who are the victims of gun violence.

Assault weapons were designed for soldiers to fight wars, not for private citizens to own. And worse, we allow people to buy and sell these death machines in Connecticut with little supervision, limits or regulation. The argument is correct—people do kill people—but let us take this opportunity to stop making it so easy for them to do so.

 

Don’t devalue the second amendment

Jackie Sussman ’17

A four-letter word to articulate a sense of dread. We endure varying magnitudes of fear every day. Car crashes. Domestic terrorism. Guns.

But before we react in fear, it is important, to evaluate any situation objectively.  So, before we lacerate the Bill of Rights, I appeal to you to omit any sense of fear you may have about guns and impartially appraise the issue of gun control.

The fundamental truths of the United States are that its government derives its power from the consent of the governed and that the role of government—large or miniscule—is to safeguard fundamental rights.  And so, I cannot overemphasize the importance and care needed to assess rolling back a right that our founders deemed critical enough to put in the Bill of Rights for the purpose of limiting a central authority’s power over its citizens.

I am not in favor of completely unregulated gun carry.  No one should be able to walk around with an AK-47 or other assault rifles without astonishingly stringent background checks.  Likewise, I also concede that it is ridiculous for conservatives to ignore the original military purpose of the second amendment.

Nevertheless, it is equally ridiculous to believe that the second amendment is anything other than an individual right—a civil liberty—guaranteed to the people.  As late Justice Antonin Scalia reasoned in the landmark Supreme Court decision D.C. v. Heller, yes, the intended purpose of the second amendment was to be for individuals involved in state militias.  With that being said, militias were spontaneously organized and consisted of any male old enough to participate in acts of war; militias were legally considered a subset of the people, and the right to bear arms must be considered an individual right.

The gun control dissension thus raises a broader philosophical question: can a just government regulate an individual right, even if that right is arguably dangerous?  Yes and no.  While the actions of individuals are under the jurisdiction of society and therefore the government, the rights of individuals are not.  If a government feels that an individual right is antipathetic to upholding the constitutional purpose of “promoting the general welfare,” then of course I support regulation; yet such regulations must be held to the strictest of scrutinies in determining how that right should be regulated.  And that is why I cannot support the Democratic Party’s current stance on gun control. Establishment Democrats do not even pretend to respect the significance and importance of the second amendment through their incessant attempt to debase and expunge it, which is a blatant disregard for the sanctity of civil liberties.

It is unfair, unjust and un-American to attempt to regulate a fundamental right by devaluing it, destroying it and establishing background-check laws that further violate civil liberties (namely, the right to privacy).  I understand this is a very emotional subject; even so, don’t let pathos arguments that may undermine the very foundations of the United States obstruct objective, logical thinking.

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