Right to Bear Arms?


By: Kristie Walsdorf

There have been 61 mass shootings in the United States since the January 8, 2011 massacre in Tucson, Arizona. The senseless shootings of 70 women, children, and men in Aurora, Colorado, this week, is just another in a long and growing list of preventable and unimaginable horrors to infiltrate our daily lives. (Click here for the entire list since 2005.) In one year on average, here in the United States, almost 100,000 people in America are shot or killed with a gun. In one year, 31,593 people died from gun violence and 66,769 people survived gun injuries according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC). That includes: 12,179 people murdered, and 44,466 people shot in an attack; 18,223 people who killed themselves and 3,031 people survived a suicide attempt with a gun; 592 people were killed unintentionally and 18,610 were shot unintentionally but survived. Is your head spinning yet? Those are not simply numbers. Each one of those numbers represents a real person who was someone’s son or daughter, a brother or sister, friend or neighbor.

It should not matter if you are republican, democrat, or independent. If you value life, you can agree that this number is outrageous. Why then, do we as a nation, allow for individuals to possess firearms? The simple answer is that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for the ability to possess and bear arms. This “right” that politicians and citizens keep waving like a red flag is not a right at all. In fact it is a privilege that you may earn by being a law abiding citizen and lose by not obeying the law. When flying that red flag of the Second Amendment, most people forget that this privilege, like most of the other Amendments, may be limited and restricted by legal and societal demands. The right to bear arms is not without constraints as its limitations have been litigated and affirmed. For instance, one) it is national policy that convicted felons may not possess firearms, two) certain domestic violence convictions will prevent one from possessing a firearm.

Thus, the Second Amendment is not alone when its legal effect has been interpreted and limited by time and legal challenges. Everyone can agree that there is a government and societal necessity to maintain public safety. Take a look at the First Amendment in this light. The First Amendment provides for free speech. However, you may not go into a crowded movie theater and yell “fire”. Schenck v. U.S. 249 U.S. 47. People would panic and potentially be injured. That is a permissible limit on free speech because that kind of speech endangers the public. Look at drinking. Prohibition was lifted by the Twenty First Amendment. However, we do not allow minors to legally consume alcohol. It is dangerous to their health and could cause a multitude of dangerous situations, such as, drunk driving, poor decision making, alcohol poisoning etc. The Fourth Amendment provides that we should be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Again, we all know horror stories associated with what police today feel is reasonable and what the courts allow to be called reasonable, thereby allowing many searches and seizures to occur on our streets or even at our borders and within our airports. (1st Amendment Right to peaceabley assemble- limited by protest free zones; 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, Right to vote- must present valid ID and be registered). The list of examples of how our rights have been limited by the government is lengthy and presumably all for the better of society. So what will it take to get Congress to agree to begin to create reasonable limits on the possession of firearms when tens of thousands of Americans die each year from their use? How many deaths will it take?

In conclusion, the Bill of Rights, including the 2nd Amendment is not frozen in time. It may be and has been limited by the courts and legislation; and it still has legal effect. The Second Amendment is no different from the other amendments, but for the number of direct deaths that may be attributed to its continued unchecked and unfiltered interpretation. Arguably, the consequences of not limiting its reach and instead allowing the continuous inexplicable killing of our citizens is the real tragedy where the only beneficiaries are the funeral homes.