Yesterday in 2007: Bearing All or None

For your reading my pleasure, my thoughts from four years ago as blogged about originally on Peaceful Ponderings:

I cannot express the feeling of exhilaration I felt today when reading some of the leading news headlines, particularly those concerning the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. A contentious topic to be sure is about to become even more so since “the Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it would decide whether the Constitution grants individuals the right to keep guns in their homes for private use, plunging the justices headlong into a divisive and long-running debate over how to interpret the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the “right of the people to keep and bear arms”” (“Justices Will Decide if Handgun Kept at Home Is Individual Right”, NYT, 20 Nov 2007). The National Rifle Association (NRA) is bound to have a strong say over the matter.

While I understand that the literal interpretation of the amendment stipulates that Americans can and shall own and have the use of guns in their homes, it is beyond time to understand the historical interpretation of the amendment as well.

When the U.S. Constitution was originally written, a budding America was in danger of being overtaken by the British. Therefore, a militia was necessary for citizen safety during a period in which attacks by enemies were likely on our home soil. Now that we are free from Britain’s reign and the threat thereof, and have been for quite some time now, it is beyond time to take a better look at this right.

Indeed, the argument could not be better worded than New York Times writer Linda Greenhouse who writes, “The Supreme Court last looked at the Second Amendment nearly 70 years ago in United States v. Miller, a 1939 decision that suggested, without explicitly deciding, that the right should be understood in connection with service in a militia. 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.” “Legal debate has focused on whether the first clause qualifies the second, protecting gun possession only as part of service in a state militia or its modern-day descendant, the National Guard”(“Justices to Weigh Handgun Ban,” Wall Street Journal, 21 Nov 2007).

I don’t know about you, but a U.S. militia has not been present in my lifetime, nor my parents, or even my grandparents. America is a free state, which should in turn mean that the need to bear arms is no longer a need, at least by individual citizens. It is a defunct law that is in need of revision, and it seems that I am not the only one who thinks so.

Re-interpreting dated texts that we continue to abide by is not an easy task and our Constitution is not the first to undergo such revision. The Bible is probably the most contested historical document at this point, constantly being viewed from different points of view in order to make a point, justify an action or the like. This can be seen most recently with Leviticus and the gay marriage debate. One thing is certain: nothing is cut-and-dry. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Advocates on both sides acknowledge the paucity of definitive authority on the matter, sending lawyers and scholars to history tomes and archaic grammars to parse the amendment’s meaning.”

WARNING: Liberal diatribe below!

Okay, here we go. It may be my unrealistic idealism coming through but think about this – if nobody in America was allowed to own a gun, then there would be no reason to have a weapon at home to protect yourself from others with guns. Think of how the murder rate would drop!

BUT…

There will always be people who will kill, whether it be by gun, by knife, by frying pan…you name it, and I’m sure someone somewhere has used it as a weapon. It is not the weapon that kills, many say, but the person in control of the weapon. So, realistically,would the murder rates in this country drop if nobody had a gun? Probably, but maybe not significantly. According to the FBI’s “1997 Uniform Crime Reports”, ten years ago the United States saw 15,289 murders, 10,369 of which were committed using firearms; this equates to about 68%. The most recent statistical report in 2005 saw firearms cause 72.6% of all homicides; of those, handguns were the culprit 87.3% of the time. With more and more Americans buying handguns for personal use, facts like these cannot and should not be ignored.

Now that this is a topic up for interpretation, however, it is sure to be up for debate by our presidential hopefuls in this coming year. It is not surprising that the Republican candidates are moving to favor the present interpretation of the amendment, allowing citizens to own and keep handguns in their homes. On the other side of the coin, however, “The campaigns of Democratic candidates Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards didn’t respond to requests for comment. The issue poses tougher problems for Democrats, who are trying to reach beyond their urban base to rural and suburban votes in the South and the Rocky Mountain states” (Wall Street Journal). This is bound to put a chink in the Dems’ stances as their campaign trails move into conservative territory. 

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Filed under Gun Control, Politics, Social Justice, Writing

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