Each year more than 30,000 people die in the United States due to gun related deaths. We watch the news and it seems like every day there is some horrific new tragedy. Most of us have been fortunate not to be directly touched by gun violence, but yesterday this abruptly shifted in my world. In Robbins, Illinois a south suburb of Chicago, two men were driving, apparently home from work. In a split-second gunfire erupted and they became innocent victims. One was fortunate and survived. The other is now a sad statistic of yet another act of senseless violence. His name was Bill Dolehide and he and his family matter.
We are being bombarded by mass shootings such as what we recently witnessed in Parkland, Florida. Gun violence and mass shootings have reached epidemic proportions in the US. However, when you see a one-off situation like what happened this past week in Robbins, we tend to gloss over that crime and victim. Locally of course it’s a big story, but it won’t garner the media attention or a national audience. We are becoming numb to these incidents due to their sheer frequency. Three women died in Yountville, California on Friday and the news cycle has quickly moved on.
Video Courtesy of ABC News http://abc7news.com/families-of-yountville-shooting-victims-break-their-silence/3207446/
Think about the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. These young people are doing their best to make a difference to change this endless cycle. When they were touched by tragedy they took a stand against gun violence. They are forcing people to face the music that gun violence is out of hand and needs to be stopped.
The Second Amendment has been widely debated, criticized and challenged over the years. It is vital to go back to the beginning and realize the spirit and intention of the framers when adding “the right to bear Arms” to the Constitution. Initially the architects of the Constitution were very concerned about how to protect the states from a national standing army. If you read the clause it states “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 Constitution was written in an era of oppression by a tyrannical and overbearing Federal Government.
Obviously, a few things have changed. No longer is it necessary to have a State Militia as our Federal Government has taken over the duties of protecting our entire country with the establishment of our military branches. The main purpose of the Second Amendment is really not relevant today. Americans definitely have a right to defend their homes. The Supreme Court established under District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008 that the Second Amendment does protect an individual’s right to have a handgun in his home for self-defense. However, it has since been argued whether this decision does or does not apply to ownership of assault style rifles or any other perceived individual “rights”.
We can go back to 1939 in an interesting case brought before the court regarding ownership of specific types of weapons. In U.S. v. Miller the Supreme Court unanimously upheld that Congress could ban the possession of certain types of weapons. In this specific case it was a sawed-off shotgun that sparked the debate. The court stated that the shotgun never passed the “common use” requirement. In simple terms, the Second Amendment protected owners for utilizing the weapon for “lawful” uses such as self-defense. A sawed-off shotgun had no use in self-defense as it seemed to be a bit over the top.
The 2nd Amendment has been completely reinterpreted to fit our modern times. Any time legislation banning certain type of guns is introduced, the NRA gets right into the fray. They are one of the most powerful special interest groups and fight viciously to protect perceived rights to gun ownership. Unfortunately, they donate a lot of money to our state and federal representatives to ensure they don’t make any far-reaching gun laws. It seems no matter how many of these tragedies occur, the NRA digs their heels in. They are a non-stop broken record. Their message is any type of gun control or reform is a threat to our 2nd Amendment rights.
How do you continue with this nonsensical argument when people keep losing their lives because of easy access to guns? Honestly the open approach to gun access is not working. We cannot rely on the court to regulate gun control. It’s the Congress’s job to create public policies. We as a country need to demand better from our representatives. They work for our safety and welfare not the NRA. How is it fathomable that you have to jump through more hoops for a driver’s license than an FOID card? This is unconscionable. If we are to stop this horrific blood bath we need to change how easy it is to purchase a firearm. It’s not about elimination but rather regulation:
-Ban Assault weapons. Nobody needs this weapons for self-defense. Go back to U.S. v. Miller and one can see that there is no reason any civilian needs these guns in their possession.
-Close the loophole on background checks that exists in gun shows. When purchasing firearms at these shows background checks are nonexistent. This needs to change ASAP.
-Require a mandatory 21-day background check on all new gun sales.
-Each person that gets a FOID card must take a gun safety class and mandatory written test similar to what is required to obtain a driver’s license.
-No mentally ill person should be able to own a handgun both for their protection and everyone who encounters them.
-The transfer of a firearm should be similar to how a vehicle transfer is handled. Transparency and traceability are crucial and need to be enforced.
Many gun owners will scoff at these extra steps but it’s well worth it to avoid the carnage we have been witness to. Owning a gun is something not to be taken lightly. Guns and cars have the potential to kill. Most people would agree that protecting the safety of our population is more important than easy access to weaponry. We as a country need to take a stand. No child should have to fear being a victim of gun violence in their neighborhoods or schools. Sitting on the sidelines is not an option. It took the students in Florida to say “never again” and to create a wide-reaching movement. We need to embrace their cause and make sure legislatures know we will not stop until our streets are safer. Don’t let someone you know and love become the next statistic.
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