Throughout my life, my sister Katt has always been the cautious one in our trio. I used to think she was paranoid, especially with her refusal to go into movie theaters. I would tell her, “We can’t let fear govern our choices, our lives. If we do that, then evil has won.” Then the Aurora shooting happened. I finally began to understand, and now I believe I see her point.
If you’ve been on the Internet at all, or watched the news recently, then you know there have been three shootings at three separate colleges during the last two weeks.
And if I’m being completely honest, this has me crippled with fear and uncertainty.
Because the students at colleges in Oregon, Texas, and Arizona decided to get up and go to class, their lives ended. They woke up full of hope for the day, with direction and intention in their minds. They were pursuing bright futures, all of them, because if you’re educating yourself, your future instantly improves. Bullets, once again, washed those futures away in streams of blood and tears.
I can’t help but ask some questions in the wake of these continued tragedies. Shootings have become routine, commonplace even. Why do our politicians shrug their shoulders and throw up their hands, feigning helplessness? These are our leaders. We have entrusted these men and women with our safety and well-being, so that they might make laws that protect all humans. Why have they failed us? Why have they not done their duty to us? What little has been done isn’t enough. People are still dying at the hands of gunmen daily, and still our leaders sit idle.
I’m going to write something that may stir up some deep-seated beliefs and emotions. What I say might piss you off, make you unfriend me, make you think I’m an idiot. I don’t care. I, and the rest of the American people, deserve to live in a country where we don’t have to live in fear of gunmen decked out in armor.
And it is with this fear for my life, and for all lives, that I say this: we have to reevaluate the role of the Second Amendment in our government.
Before you stand up on your computer chair and begin yelling obscenities at your screen (i.e. “IT’S MY RIGHT AS AN AMERICAN TO OWN A GUN” and “GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE” and “DAMN LIBERAL PUSSY!” and “THE GOVERNMENT CAN PRY MY GUN OUT OF MY COLD, DEAD REPUBLICAN FINGERS”), let me explain. I’m not saying we need to ELIMINATE the Second Amendment. Since moving to Western Pennsylvania, I’m beginning to see that gun culture is deeply ingrained and not going anywhere. Kids here in our neck of the woods actually get the first day of hunting season off from school.
To put that in perspective, they have to come to school on Veteran’s Day… but I digress….
I’m saying we have to look more deeply at why this amendment exists, its relevance in the modern world, and whether it still benefits us as a nation…. and then make the necessary changes.
From my limited understanding of U.S. History, here is what I’ve gathered about the purpose of the Second Amendment.
1. The Second Amendment was included in the Constitution because we lived in highly unstable times. America was a new nation then, faced with constant threat of invasion by Britain. This country was new, with limited resources and newly claimed independence. We were on our guard, always ready for an attack — and so it was expected that every property-owning male would have a gun at the ready in case an impromptu army needed to be formed. I’m no historian, but I’m guessing that it was probably pretty easy to get a gun back then. You could likely just waltz into any general store and purchase one the same way you’d buy a bag of flour or a bridle for your horse. We no longer have to worry about being invaded by the British, and anyway, I’m fairly certain that were an invasion to occur, our military would be more than capable of handling it. We no longer need a civilian militia at the ready.
2. Most people, at least middle-and-lower-class people, hunted animals for food. Men organized hunting excursions, where animals would be killed and brought home to be used in cooking. You needed a gun to do this, as most white colonials weren’t skilled in the art of archery. Guns were a more sophisticated, efficient tool for killing the meat you needed to survive. Completely understandable, and instrumental to survival. Yes, some people still hunt. This is fine. However, it is no longer as central to our culture as it was at the inception of our nation. Most people buy their food from grocery stores. Guns for the sole purpose of hunting are no longer a mainstream American staple.
3. People had duels on the regular back then. If there was a problem, by God, you settled it with a duel. If we examine this, we can see the seedlings of American gun culture beginning to sprout. You brought along at least one gun, and you fired shots until one of you died in order to protect your honor. Guns have always been associated with power, with honor, and even with righteousness. Despite the nonviolent teachings of Jesus, and despite the fact that Christianity remained the dominant religion in America throughout its inception, guns were still the weapon of choice (and yes – were used even outside acts of self-defense). We brought this over from our British beginnings, and have defended it fiercely. Even with the popularity of duels in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, you were pretty unlikely to be killed during one. An American’s chance of dying from a gunshot wound is higher now than it has ever been in American history. People still duke it out with pistols – not to mention drive-by shootings and domestic disputes – but they’re a lot more likely to die now than they were back in colonial USA. Guns are more accurate and more deadly now than they were then.
My endgame here is not to bash guns. I’m sure it’s fun to shoot a gun, and thrilling to kill a deer – if that gets you off, you do you. I’m simply speculating as to the necessity of the Second Amendment in modern America. Here we defend our guns more fiercely than any other developed nation, and we are in the midst of a bloodbath because of it.
Before I get off my soapbox, I want to examine some gun violence statistics from different countries. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Americans own 88 guns per 100 people. Norway and Canada own fewer than half that number, with Japan trailing at 0.6 guns per 100 people. However, Canada’s firearm homicide rate is barely one-sixth that of the U.S., with only 0.51 homicides per 100,000 people versus 3.21 for the U.S.
Canada’s stricter gun laws arose in response to a school shooting, in which a disgruntled ex-student massacred 14 classmates at a Montreal engineering school. More than half of all registered guns were banned in this act, and anyone wishing to own a restricted firearm must go through a lengthy federal registration process. Australia’s gun laws are notable as well, having removed assault weapons from circulation, essentially prohibited automatic and semiautomatic assault rifles, and strengthened licensing and ownership requirements. Both nations have seen marked decreases in gun violence, and Australia has not experienced a mass shooting since the dock massacre that prompted their swift and effective response.
I will point out that neither Canada nor Australia has banned guns. You can still have a gun (heck, have 10!) in both of these countries. If you’re worried about self-defense, you’re allowed to have a gun in your home to protect yourself in your home. If you like to hunt, you can have a gun for that too! They simply made it more difficult for just any Tom, Dick, and Harry to waltz into a gun show and buy a military-grade assault rifle.
I propose modifications to our current gun laws that follow in Canada’s and Australia’s wake. They have seen huge decreases in gun violence, and notably no increase in other violent crime. Please, let’s abandon our typical American arrogance and follow suit. It will save the lives of our loved ones, our teachers, our children. It will make a safer America for everyone.