unting has been an enjoyable activity for me since I was a teenager. Still, I have never feared that the “government” would confiscate my guns. Nor have I ever considered that my guns are needed to protect against a tyrannical government. These paranoid rantings of conspiracy theorists and the National Rifle Association simply don’t resonate with me. But I am very concerned about gun violence.
Last week the nation experienced another gun tragedy at a high school in Parkland, Florida, with 17 confirmed dead and many injured. The death toll could rise, but it won’t matter to those who oppose any type of gun control. They will rely on the same old tired arguments against new laws to restrict firearms by claiming the problem is mental illness. That’s what they always do.
The gun rights advocates have numerous stock answers for their position: They’ll say that Chicago has very strict gun control laws but shootings there are the worst in the nation. Or they’ll claim that if we take guns away from law abiding citizens only criminals will have guns. The NRA’s favorite is: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
I’ve heard usually reasonable columnists argue that any type of gun control law will lead to banning of all guns. They oppose taking that “first step.” But previous legislation provides no support for this theory. Fully-automatic weapons have been tightly controlled in the U.S. for many decades but these laws didn’t lead to gun confiscations. So-called assault rifles were banned for 10 years in 1994 and that law didn’t cause significant erosions of other gun rights. I think the first step argument is totally specious.
Republican politicians will tout their membership in the NRA and vow that they will “protect Second Amendment rights.” But what are those rights? The Constitution 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.”
These somewhat vague 25 words have been the subject of untold pages of legal documents and tense political debates. But what do they really mean? Well, I have a theory as to why they were added to the nation’s founding legal document:
“Militia” appears more times in the Constitution than “army.” The Founders were very familiar with the long history of militias in the colonies, and how valuable they were in the Revolutionary War. In the late 1700s state militias were seen as a primary defense against insurrections and invasions. And they had displayed their worth at Concord, Massachusetts I believe the roots of the Second Amendment can be traced to the seminal battle that occurred there.
As tensions between the colonists and the British heightened in 1775 the King’s soldiers were ordered to march on Lexington and Concord to capture and destroy the local militia’s guns and ammunition. This started the American Revolution with the “shot heard round the world.” The citizen soldiers there forced the invaders to retreat back to Boston.
Is it any wonder that the Founders wanted to make sure “militias” couldn’t be disarmed? I believe they would be shocked at how the Second Amendment is being interpreted today.
The NRA and gun rights advocates go way beyond simply opposing laws that control the types and uses of guns. They pressured Republicans in Congress to prevent the Centers for Disease Control from studying the health effects of gun violence and to prohibit national records of gun ownership. They make the ridiculous claim that the government might use the records to confiscate all guns.
There is no way the federal government could roundup the estimated 270 million guns in the hands of private U.S. citizens. Republicans who say this could happen are totally ignoring the rule of law. To begin with, such an operation would be an impossible task that would require complicity by the military, the Congress and the Supreme Court. Even the liberal American Civil Liberties Union would fight it tooth and nail.
But I would submit that the debate should not be totally about regulating assault rifles or any other gun-related activity or device; it should also be about preventing organizations like the NRA from “buying” the legislators who pass our laws.
The donations that various high-profile Republicans get from the NRA were documented Thursday by MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle on her “For Fact’s Sake” program. These numbers are simply appalling.
Bill Cassidy (R-LA) – $2,800,000
Rob Portman (R-OH) – $3,000,000
Joni Ernst (R-IA) – $3,100,000
Marco Rubio (R-FL) – $3,300,000
Cory Gardner (R-CO) – $3,900,000
John McCain (R-AZ) – $7,700,000
President Donald Trump – $21,000,000+
It’s clear that gun rights groups and their conservative supporters flood the congressional races with tainted donations. Money is the life-blood of political campaigns and special interest support can make the difference between winning and losing. Let’s face it, the number one objective of politicians is reelection. Anyone who presents a politician with a large check owns a piece of him, and the larger the check, the larger the piece.
Until we have strong, enforceable laws to limit contributions to political campaigns, special interest groups will continue to unduly influence elections. And the wishes of “we the people” on guns and other issues will be suppressed by organizations like the NRA and the officials they help elect.