With unfortunate regularity, our nation self inflicts tragedies such as the recent Sandy Hook mass murders. The world that continually admires America for our spirit, values and achievement stands baffled at how, in these modern times, our nation’s President and Congress, and indeed our society would allow such carnage in the name of the Second Amendment to our Constitution.
The Second Amendment adopted on December 15, 1791, simply 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 spirit behind the amendment was to prevent the then newly formed Federal Government from disarming the state militias. And, the arms that existed then were basic from clubs, knives and artillery. In the modern era of 2013, when we have the state police to protect us, and a national army to defend us—the second amendment is irrelevant. There have been 27 amendments to the Constitution, some like the 19th amendment in 1920 that finally gave women the right to vote. Thus, the amendment process was intended as a means to continually better our Constitution, while wisely making it a complex and deliberative process.
For over a hundred years, the Courts sensibly affirmed that the second amendment does not confer the right of individuals to bear arms. Even the National Rifle Association (NRA) supported licensing and registration requirements. Then came the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 that reversed many provisions of the 1968 Gun Control Act and somehow established the second amendment to mean unfettered access and possession of not just guns, but, weapons of war, by individuals—a position that has now become the mantra of the NRA and unfortunately, the Republican Party. Ronald Reagan, the hero of the modern day GOP, while being a gun enthusiast, did support sensible restrictions in 1994, when he wrote to Congress in support of the Brady Bill that established a waiting period and mandatory background checks. The Brady Bill, championed and signed into law by President Clinton was for a 10 year term and expired in 2004. Unfortunately, President Obama meekly refused to seek an extension throughout his first term.
While I understand that the cultural norms in certain parts of the nation require allowances for recreational hunting, such pursuits certainly do not need weapons of mass destruction that are unfortunately legal to possess today. Criminals have more fire power today than law enforcement officers.
Let us, at a minimum, impose rational checks such as a thorough background check, verification of need and usage, a psychiatric evaluation, and stringent licensing requirements on any gun ownership. The NRA claims that 99.99% of its members are law abiding citizens and therefore should have no issues being cleared through this process. Owning a gun should be more difficult than getting a drivers license- which unfortunately is not the case today.
Rameysh Ramdas, an SF Bay Area professional, writes as a hobby.
No, gun control is not the answer
The shooting at Sandy Hook was heart wrenching. The grief of the parents, families and friends over the loss of promising little lives was difficult to bear. The question that is raised here is obviously not an easy one to answer.
Yet, the simple answer would seem to be: yes. This seems like the right answer based on an instinctive, gut level desire to prevent this from happening again.We know that guns are dangerous, and in general it is good for society to have some level of control over access to dangerous things to prevent accidental deaths. So, instinctively it might seem as though I am for gun control, just as I am for driver’s licenses which make our roads safer. But then I am reminded that the right to drive is not enshrined in the Constitution but the right to own arms is. Any attempt at circumscribing a constitutional right must be very carefully weighed against the harm that can come from limiting it.
Having emigrated from India, I am very much aware of this country’s strengths. And I often ask myself why the United States is advanced in so many ways. I keep coming back to two things: the Constitution and the respect the people have towards the laws that emerge from the framework provided by the Constitution. So any gun controls that we consider must be well thought out to prevent unintended consequences.
Given what is at stake, we need to pause and test-drive our instinctive answer which is: yes, Sandy Hook could have been avoided if there was more gun control. The question then is how much more gun control would have been needed to prevent this? Actually Connecticut already had enough controls to stop the shooter. Yet, those gun control laws could not prevent him from stealing the weapons from his mother who legally owned them. So then we are left realizing that more controls do not stop someone who would break laws to acquire them. Only a complete ban on guns could have stopped Sandy Hook. For sake of argument, let us assume an outright ban also made it impossible to acquire guns illegally. Then of course, by force of reason, we would have to conclude that such a ban would have stopped the Sandy Hook shootings. But would it have prevented the killings? We have to look no further than Oklahoma to know that large numbers of people can be killed without guns. So, clearly gun control or an outright gun ban would not necessarily have prevented the killings at Sandy Hook. In hindsight this is somewhat obvious given that people have been killing people long before guns were invented.
In summary then, given that we cannot even make a clear argument that more controls would have prevented Sandy Hook, it is hard to rationally support further circumscribing a Constitutional right. Sawing off the branch that you are sitting is not wise unless there is a compelling reason. Something needs to be done to prevent future school shootings from happening. But, as heart wrenching as Sandy Hook is, we are solving the wrong problem if we look to gun controls as the answer.
George Valliath, an expert in display technologies, grew up in Mumbai and now lives in Chicago.