Once again mass shootings stalk America. Ten dead in Buffalo, 21 in Uvalde, Texas. In less than two weeks. Both shooters were teenagers. Once again there are loud outcries for something to be done, and once again nothing will be done.
One insidious influence against meaningful gun control is the use, or abuse, of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment reads, “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.”
For years, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted this to mean that the purpose of the Amendment was solely to “render possible the effectiveness” of militias, and well-regulated militias at that. It strikes me as obvious that that is what it means.
But it wasn’t obvious to the 2008 version of the Supreme Court. This court ruled, for the first time in history, by a 5-4 vote, that the Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a gun. Not satisfied with that, the 2008 ruling also gave special constitutional protection to handguns, the major killing instrument, because of their popularity no less.
It seems to this non-lawyer that if that was what the American founding fathers wanted, they would have just said so: “ The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” But they threw in that preface, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” which would seem to specify that Americans should have a right to bear arms in order to have a militia for the purpose of securing a free state, not in order to go hunting, or shoot varmints, or just to collect the damn things. To secure a free state—period.
The 2008 court managed to transform the Second Amendment from a provision that protected a collective right to form a “well regulated militia” into an amendment protecting individuals’ rights to carry weapons.
Legal language scholar Neal Goldfarb stated, “The court’s interpretation failed to reflect how ‘bear’ and ‘arms’ were actually used in the late 18th century,” explaining that when the Constitution was written, the phrase “the right to bear arms” was understood in the military sense, not simply as owning a gun. In other words to maintain “a well-regulated militia.” And of course in the founders’ time, arms meant a musket, not an AR-15.
The U.S. ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 residents is far higher than any other country in the world. Its gun murder rate mirrors this, the highest among advanced nations, five times that of Canada. The country has had an incredible 213 mass shootings in the first five months of this year. An average of 321 Americans are shot every day and every day, over 50,000 guns are sold. In a typical year, more preschoolers are shot dead than police officers.
And as I said at the beginning, nothing will be done. The United States, backed by its own Supreme Court, will continue to fail at a state’s primary function—the protection of its citizens.