Gun Control

Reading Time: 12 minutes
Publisher’s Note

Gun control is one of the most polarizing issues of our time. The Second Amendment has become hotly contested ground between both sides of the aisle. Our writers do a remarkable job representing their sides’ opinions in a clear, respectful, and articulate way. As always, it is our pleasure to present, side by side, the issue of gun control.

Dutifully,

The Faireway Staff

The Liberal Argument
Damian Marlow, Stanford University

The time is 10:36 a.m., and you just finished teaching your second period Biology class. As students bustle back and forth down the hall like a quickly flowing stream of salmon swimming up river, you stand outside your door, waiting for the third period bell to ring and class to begin. Of course, as can be expected from 14 and 15 year olds, the hallways smell like body odor mixed with the everlasting distant scent of stale bread. But it’s nothing new to you, considering you’ve been teaching for thirteen years, so you simply smile as your students enter your classroom and begrudgingly sit at their desks.

In the time it takes to blink, though, what sounds like a dozen fireworks being shot off at once rings down the hallways, ricocheting off lockers and the heads of children. There’s a still silence for perhaps a millisecond as students stop in their tracks, faces drained of blood. Then, comes the running, screaming, head covering. They rush into the closest classroom possible, and you do your best to cram as many students and faculty as possible into your room. As soon as the hallway is clear, gunshots still ringing in the background, you close your door, lock it –

And wonder: how could this have happened?

Considering the commentary surrounding current events, the question of gun necessity within the modern American lifestyle is a common one. However, to say that the concept of gun rights, or, for some, gun “rights,” is a new one would be ignorant considering one of the first major school shootings dates back to 1999 in Littleton, Colorado. Today, most people refer to this school shooting as Columbine, the name of the high school where it happened, and nearly everybody knows exactly what others are talking about when the name is mentioned.

Simply put, the extent to which the Second Amendment affects our daily lives has been in the spotlight for quite some time. Yet, the United States has yet to reach an effective solution.

Now, the Second 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.” In the 2007 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller, the meaning of the Second Amendment was examined following the D.C. handgun ban. All commentary surrounding this case focused around the placement of three commas within the Amendment, and the majority ultimately ruled that the Amendment has a “prefatory” and “operative” clause. That is, the part of the Amendment mentioning “a well regulated militia” was determined to be simply preliminary to the rest of the Amendment, which SCOTUS ruled was the part the Founding Fathers were focusing on.

However, looking back to a 2001 Fifth Circuit court case where an amicus curiae brief was submitted, the People can see that there are actually many interpretations of these commas. The brief claimed that the commas supported “the collective rights interpretation” (see: New York Times: Clause and Effect). This ultimately means that the commas were meant to highlight the statement “a well-regulated militia… shall

not be infringed,” leading to, without a doubt, an entirely different interpretation than the 2007 SCOTUS case which, under the Supremacy Clause, rules.

Nonetheless, the placement of guns, specifically semi-automatic and automatic weapons, within our society is still a largely debated question, especially after the Parkland shooting this last year. With all the differing interpretations and missing clarity of the Second Amendment, some are actually calling for a new amendment rectifying the issues, gramatical and societal, within this one. And, in all honesty, it might not be a bad idea.

After all, our society has evolved. Why shouldn’t our Constitution, a document written almost 250 years ago by men who lived in a completely different world with different weapons and political issues, do the same?

Thus, I call to you to look at Australia, a prime example of how stricter gun laws can rectify the issues America is experiencing concerning mass shootings. Following the shooting of Port Arthur in 1997, Australia implemented new gun regulations, including a new National Firearms Program Implementation Act established by Prime Minister Howard. This Act required that:

-All guns must be registered
-Automatic and semiautomatic weapons are banned
-A buyback program was created and more than 650,000 guns were destroyed -Owners must have a valid reason to carry (including hunting or farming) -Guns and ammunition must be locked away properly

Since these regulations were created, Australia has had no mass shootings. That’s right: none .

Now, personally, I don’t believe in a complete ban of weapons. After all, in a world where we now have to deal with human trafficking, sexual assault, and violent people everyday (unfortunately), we must have some way to protect ourselves. I, personally, own pepper spray and a taser; being as small as I am, my fists and kicks can only do so much. However, weapons that can kill at a rapid rate are completely unnecessary and hold no place in our society.

My belief is a simple one: you don’t need to be able to kill to protect yourself . You simply need to be able to stop your assaulter.

Of course, if America made changes similar to that of Australia, things may take a while. It may be a difficult and tiring process. Our population is bigger, after all; but that doesn’t mean these changes wouldn’t work.

In fact, I beg our government to look to Australia as an example of how much better things could get if we chose to follow in their footsteps – if we decide to complete more thorough background checks and

better regulate who can own what weapon. The ability to own a gun, a killing machine, should never, ever overshadow the importance of our children’s safety, and, honestly, I think it’s about time that people look around and realize our society has changed – that it’s about time that our government and ourselves do the same.

The Conservative Argument
Natalie Fahlberg, Princeton University

—It seems like every time I open one of my many news pages I see something new about a shooting or mass-murder of innocents. According to the Gun Violence Archive, almost 40,000 instances of gun violence have occurred thus far in 2018, with a harrowing number of 9,720 deaths from these instances. This, of course, is much to the dismay of any conservative who believes in Second amendment rights.

Conservatives love the Second amendment. And I mean, they really, really love it. There’s something about the idea of the power and individual freedom – the originalism of it all. I totally get it. Gun ownership grants some political benefits as well. They can act as a mechanism to dissuade government overreach, and can do the same to dissuade racist organizations like the Klu Klux Klan from acting out against persons of color and minorities who are gun owners. Gun ownership can deter criminals and make individuals safer and feel more secure on and off their property. The Second amendment harkens back to the days of revolutionary militias and the very right which led to the creation of this nation.

Conservatives and Liberals must come together, however, to think of ways in which we can amend the Second amendment, or, at least, interpret it in different ways given the recent shootings and egregious abuses of the privileges bestowed upon us by the Second Amendment.

“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.” The task at hand is this: what changes, if any, should be made to the Second amendment? I have a few that pop up in my head when I think about striking the balance between crying teens who just lost their friends to a school shooter and the group of law-abiding guys (or gals!) who wish to preserve the freedoms and rights that are among the fundamental principles that helped build our nation.

The first is this: have we really defined the meaning of “a well-regulated Militia?” Did the Founders mean that the National Guard would fit the definition? Did they mean that a fully functioning people’s militia would do the trick? If a person fell out of such militia, would they be forced to hand over their guns?  While personally I interpret “militia” to be a broad term meant to protect the people from a tyrannical government, I understand why the other side has difficulty with this term. I believe this to mean that a militia would be necessary to preserving the State against any threat, more specifically a tyrannical government, foreign or domestic, but it is still loosely defined.

A second possible change could be made to better define or include what an “Arm” is. Is it a gun? Is it anything used to launch a bullet or similar type of projectile in the air? The issue I have would be the ability of people to obtain grenade launchers or semi-automatic weapons. Legally, Americans can ‘t own 40mm grenade launchers, live explosives, high caliber anti-vehicle rounds and such, but it still concerns most people to think of someone getting access to a high-profile military weapon and shooting at a crowd of people.

A third possible clarification would be to define the ability of the federal or state governments to regulate mental health of individuals. Having a firearm, while a basic freedom, is one that cannot and should not be abused. There should be a stronger emphasis on having a sound mind when purchasing, owning, and operating a weapon. Conservatives and Liberals need to collaborate and define any regulations that will lead to possible changes. For this reason, I would personally add an “of rational or sound mind” clause to the amendment. Building on this, amending other clauses to provide greater mental health regulation and assistance for citizens. Conservatives could appreciate such mental health measures, which are normally supported by left-of-center politicians, as well. Gun-show loopholes, gun safety classes, etc. … The list goes on.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has an incredible amount of power and a wealth of resources regarding gun safety. Organizations like the NRA should work with young students, such as those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – young people who may not have the right to vote, but who wield considerable social influence through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. They are our future, and it is important that politicians and powerful lobbying organizations acknowledge the pleas of the younger generations. Among the loudest voices of all is the cry for mental health measures to be set in stone.

Everyone should desire to better-educate our country on gun rights and gun violence. By educating the populace, meaningful steps towards reform can be taken instead of the all too familiar bogged down weeds of bureaucracy every time there is another shooting on my “breaking” news feed.

Overall, I’m torn. I’ve always leaned conservative, but the incessant massacre, sorrow, and suffering is too prevalent for us to ignore. Gun violence is an issue upon which both sides must seek to enact reform.There should be no “liberal” or “conservative” sides when the safety of our citizens, defenseless and otherwise, are on the line. This is an issue where both sides can rally and find ways to save and improve the lives of our citizens.

These views do not represent the views of the United States Army

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2 Comments

    1. Two out of the three shootings were not mass shootings – they were murders committed by family members. The third was a hostage situation where 2 people died. Nonetheless, the number of mass shootings and people killed from them has drastically decreased.

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