Gun ownership is under assault

January 3rd, 2020 by Ken

Recent efforts to control gun violence by placing restrictions on gun ownership, is rapidly creating significant rifts between those who see the need to stop mass shootings, and those who see the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution as under assault.

Lets review what the Second Amendment really 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.”  Just 27 words

From my way of reading, it appears, that the “Founders” saw arming of the people an acknowledged right and just didn’t sense the need to spend much time debating it.  At the time of the drafting of the constitution and later the Bill of Rights, which the Second Amendment is part of, the country was newly formed and had just fought a battle for its independence.

In that fight with the British, the colonists also faced attacks from Native tribes, armed and encouraged by the British, to attack colonial settlements.  It was often the local militia which responded to those Indian and British attacks.   So, a well-regulated militia was necessary.  The militia was formed by people with guns.  So, the rights to have those guns was necessary.

For decades, that amendment was taken for granted.   It was assumed that all people had a right to keep and bear arms as a means of self-protection as well as being necessary for the security of the free State.

It was only in the last half of the 20th Century that the Second Amendment began to be questioned.  The need for people to have guns and other armament seemed to some as no longer needed.

In the last half of the century, deaths by guns started to increase.  it reached its peak in 1974 when the death rate in the United States stood at 7.7 per 100,000 residents.  The death rate has continued to decline since with small variations until it stood at 4.6 per 100,000 in 2017.

In 2018, we had 37,000 deaths by guns in the United States.  Suicides account for 60 percent of those gun deaths, around 23,000.  Mass shootings, (not completely defined but as good as can be determined) accounted for 373 deaths.

(All of the above stats are from the Pew Research Center)

Mass shootings in the United States make news because they are rare and the victims are usually unarmed and vulnerable.

The first mass shooting I remember was in 1966 when Charles Whitman took several rifles, climbed the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, and began shooting.  He killed 17 and wounded more than 50.  What was significant about the shooting was it was carried live on television.

The Columbine school shootings had extensive video prepared by the shooters themselves.  Those videos were shown dozens of time by the national media.  I believe it was those shootings that set the trend for additional school shootings.   Those committing the murders have significant mental problems and want to make a statement.  Killing as many people as possible and dying with them, either by his own hand or by law enforcement, makes his death memorable to the victims family and friends.  He’ll always be remembered as long as the national media continues to replay the event.

In 2008, the United States Supreme Court ruled that individuals have the right to own guns.  Since that time, local and state legislative bodies have attempted to temper that ruling but placing restrictions on gun ownership.

Two years ago, voters in our state passed I-1639 which places severe restrictions on buying and selling firearms, by requiring those owning guns to keep them locked up, and by limiting certain attachments to those weapons.  It passed in the urban counties of the state and failed in most of the rural areas.  Following the vote certification, 31 or the state’s 39 county sheriffs said they would not enforce the measure or had major problems with the initiative.  Today, gun rights advocates are challenging the measure in court with the intent of seeing that it makes its way to the United States Supreme Court.

Recently, Pierce and King counties began placing a tax on bullets.  It’s an effort to make gun use so expensive that no one will want to pay the financial price.  (There’s no limit to how much tax they can charge.)

What happened in our state is now starting to make itself felt in other states.  The Virginia State Legislature is completely controlled by Democrats.  They are seriously considering a law similar to Washington state.  In response, 86 of Virginia’s 95 counties have or are in the process of becoming “Sanctuary” counties, where the right of the people to keep and bear arms will not be infringed.

Lets place this debate in context.  Urban areas want to stop the ownership of guns.  Rural areas want to have the right to own and use guns.   Most gun deaths in the United States is by suicide.  Mass shootings are rare and often the result of mental illness.   Mass shooting have become more common because of media coverage.  The courts have ruled owning a gun is a right.  Does that mean that no restrictions can be placed on gun ownership?  Who will make these decisions?  A decision by the United States Supreme Court spelling out just what the Second Amendment means and what kind of restrictions can be place on gun ownership is necessary.  When will that happen?

Posted in History

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