The 2nd Amendment and Mass Shootings
“Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose”
– Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in DC vs Heller (2007)
The mass shootings events like the Newtown first graders in Connecticut, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Charleston, and all the others are universally sickening. I don’t believe we will ever eliminate such tragedy, but we must do better. Doing nothing is not acceptable.
Certainly efficient enforcement of existing laws needs to be improved. The shooter at the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston would have not gotten the murder weapon legally had the system worked. But we need to consider that our existing law set an unacceptably low standard that those with evil intent can easily step over.
We have laws and regulations that respect 2nd amendment rights yet require strong licensing for automatic weapons (machine guns). For handguns the laws and regulations are less invasive. For military grade rifles such as AR-15 variants, I will support laws and regulations regarding ownership that are more demanding in terms of owner vetting, owner required training, and weapons storage to a degree tighter than for a handgun. I was a soldier, and qualified expert on the M-16 assault rifle. I know what it can do – kill a lot of human beings in a short period of time. That an 18 year old with $500 can buy an AR-15 or AK with no training or knowledge on such a weapon’s operation, safety, or dangers, and then cluelessly take such a weapon out into our society is asking for senseless tragedies. Justice Scalia wrote in the Heller decision that the government could restrict the ownership of weapons that are “dangerous and unusual.” We can, as Scalia clearly suggested, do better and still respect the 2nd amendment.
Will tighter background checks and other common sense gun laws prevent all mass murders? No, unfortunately they will not. Will they prevent some tragedies by making access harder and more responsible? Probably. It’s time for Congress to take action to find a better way than our current head in the sand approach.
Regarding placement of citizens on gun “no buy” lists without a formal due process, I would agree that due process and notifications up front need additional protections.
I do oppose “open carry” of handguns that have no regulations requiring licensing, training, or location limitations.
Gun ownership is not the problem we face in America. Gun violence is our challenge. As a nation we have not arrived at a balanced yet effective and constitutionally valid approach. Let’s stop avoiding a serious dialogue, start talking, and find a path for a safer country.