Once more a tragic shooting spree has taken the lives of innocent people and once more a nation reacts in shock and horror. President Obama addressed the nation tonight, just like he has done so many times during his two terms in office. Both sides of the political spectrum offer the usual answers. The Left says responsible gun control that would keep guns out of the hands of crazy people would solve most if not all of the problem. The Right maintains that more guns, not less, would deter these acts of violence.
Both are wrong. The Right's solution would only turn the country into a modern-day O. K. Corral. And as for the Left's solution, sadly, even passing a few gun laws wouldn't have stopped most of these heinous acts. The real problem isn't a lack of gun laws or an insufficient number of "good guys with guns stopping bad guys with guns." I submit that the real problem has been right under our nose and the Left's decision not to address it is the real culprit here.
Put succinctly, the problem is the Second Amendment itself. For most of our nation's history, the Amendment was understood to grant unfettered gun rights to those individuals who belonged to militias during the formative years of the Republic. Owing to the fact that America did not have a standing army until after the Civil War, militias were the only defense the nation had against a foreign invasion. Indeed President Lincoln had to rely on state militias to form the Union Army.
This is what the Amendment actually says:
"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."
Any honest and objective reading of that sentence would lead one to conclude that it was never the Founders intention that every citizen in the country should have unfettered access to guns. And for the better part of two centuries, that was the prevailing sentiment of the Supreme Court, as well. Two landmark decisions are worth noting here.
The first is United Staes v. Cruikshank in 1876, which said that "The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence." It ruled the Second Amendment was limited to the federal government.
The second major decision was United States v. Miller in 1939. There the Court ruled that the federal government could limit or restrict those weapons that did not have a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia."
It was accepted as axiomatic that the whole purpose for the Amendment in the first place was to ensure that the country had the means with which to defend itself. Reasonably sane people all concurred. Guns were not so much a right as they were a necessary evil that allowed the nation to preserver against foreign attacks.
All that changed with the now infamous District of Columbia v. Heller decision in 2008. It was here for the first time that the Court ruled that the Amendment did in fact protect an individual's right to bear arms. Two years later, in McDonald v. Chicago, the Court doubled down on that decision by ruling that the right to "keep and bear arms" as stated in the Second Amendment was protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that it applied to every state in the country.
Both these decisions were staggering in their consequence. In effect, the Supreme Court reinterpreted and, as some have suggested, rewrote the Second Amendment, ignoring the part about well regulated militias, and deciding that every citizen was entitled to own a gun if he or she chose to do so. Not only that, it ostensibly outlawed any attempt at banning guns and severely restricted the means by which local governments could even regulate them.
And this is where we now stand. Two highly flawed Supreme Court decisions which have not only opened the flood gates to gun ownership in the country, but granted carte blanche to every gun toting idiot to beat his chest and fight against any reasonable restriction on his so-called rights. It is estimated that there are now as many guns in the United States as there are people. No other developed country on the planet comes close.
The Left must resist the urge to play on the enemy's turf. The answer to gun violence in America isn't to enact one or two anemic laws filled with loopholes wide enough to drive a truck through. If the Left ever hopes to win the war on gun control, it must do all it can to change the discussion from crazy people with guns back to where it belongs. It must challenge the very premise that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct. It must do all it can to reverse the damage done by the Supreme Court in both the Heller and McDonald decisions.
There is a reason the United States leads all developed countries in gun homicides. We have a gun culture that is enabled by selective renderings of history and upheld by flimsy judicial activism. Until both are properly disposed of, we can expect this deadly trend to continue unabated.
This will not be an easy fight to win. Indeed, it may prove to be an impossible task. But reasonable gun restrictions have been successfully thwarted at every turn by the gun lobby. Even attempts at passing a common sense background check law failed miserably. There is no indication that future attempts will be any more effective. Face it, America is addicted to violence. It's in our blood. Our only hope is a blood transfusion.
And that transfusion must come politically through winning elections at the federal level. The next president will be in a position to nominate one, possibly two, Supreme Court justices. If it is a Democrat, it is possible that both the Heller and McDonald decisions could be revisited and reversed.
And if that were to happen, America could begin its long but necessary journey back towards a more genuine and accurate understanding of its history; back to a time when learned men wrote noble words that they fully expected their posterity to grasp.