Mack’s Craic.

18Dec12

When is the United States going to sort out it’s gun laws?

The scale of the tragedy and the unimaginable pain of the families and members of the community after Adam Lanza’s shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has to renew the debate over gun control.

The problem is the interpretation of the Second Amendment to the US constitution and specifically the phrase “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. On the face of it, it looks like all American citizens have the right to carry a gun for personal protection, but as with all things you have to look at the context.

The quote, “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is only the second half of the sentence. The full sentence is “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”. It’s not just the context of the document but also the context of when it was written which explains, “A well regulated Militia”. 

The Second Amendment was adopted on December 15, 1791. It was a different time, under different circumstances, with very different weapons. Success in the Revolutionary War had helped America’s Founding Fathers realise the need for firearms. A far-away government imposed taxes without representation. Armed citizens had fought for the right to form their own government. It is more than likely that they wanted guns to be available in case they needed to do that again. As well as that, America was still expanding. There were territorial disputes with the native people whose land and resources they were claiming. When those people objected violently, groups of armed men could repel them with force and keep their communities safe.

The most hi-tech weapon of the day was the musket. Someone who knew what they were doing could take a single wildly inaccurate shot and then rummage around with a ram-rod and a powder bag for over a minute before being able to shoot again. The only way multiple shots could be fired would be with multiple muskets, and multiple well disciplined shooters, in other words a “well regulated Militia”. Muskets WERE used for personal protection but when people did die from these weapons, it was often because of lead poisoning or infection.

The Second Amendment is out of date. There’s no way America’s Founding Fathers could have imagined the weapon technology of today. Unless you specify that the “arms” referred to in the Second Amendment are Revolutionary War-era muskets, you’re leaving the interpretation wide open.

They have tried to bring things up to date. In 1994 a law banning assault weapons for ten years was passed by Congress. That law expired in 2004 at the end of the George W. Bush administration

Would tougher gun laws have prevented Adam Lanza from killing twenty children aged six & seven and six staff members? We’ll never know, but what we do know is that one of the weapons he used was a Bushmaster .223-caliber military-style assault rifle. Investigators say it belonged LEGALLY to his mother. He took it from her home after fatally shooting her. Would she have been allowed to own that gun if the 1994 law had not been allowed to expire?

 

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