“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.” Just over 25 words in the Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution has spurred deeply-rooted commitment to the right to bear arms.
The founding of our country depended on the ability of rural farmers, now remembered as “minute men,” to be able to pick up a weapon and defend their homes at a moment's notice. Those who fought during the American Revolution found it absolutely imperative to codify the right to return to their weapons and wanted to ensure that part of their legacy was bestowing the right to protect yourself, your family, and your country.
But times have changed and guns have changed.
On February 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff members and injuring 17 others. The weapon that the offender chose to use was not the single-load musket circa 1776, but rather a gun that had the ability to fire over 100 rounds in about a minute.
It is a difficult task to try to combine and condense those ideas into a palatable format, let alone to develop an answer on Gun Rights and Gun Control on which the majority of Americans will agree.
An Argument in the Extremes
It seems that those with opposing viewpoints on guns rights are truly living in the black and white, with half of people wanting to eliminate all firearms and the other wanting the freedom to maintain an arsenal.
In actuality, most people are fairly pragmatic and can understand why a rural cattle farmer needs a shotgun to protect his livestock (and livelihood) from dangerous animals like coyotes or wolves. What seems to be the biggest issue is where to draw the line: Should everyone in American be able to openly carry a handgun? Should gun enthusiasts be able to buy military-style weapons at a gun show? Should all gun owners surrender their guns to the government like other countries have done?
One project is attempting to find that elusive grey area where we, as Americans, can figure out how to remove some of the divisiveness surrounding the “gun issue” and find a way to move forward in our country while decreasing the number of those who die each year as a result of gun violence.
The project, launched by a coalition of groups, is called “Guns: An American Conversation.” This collective gathered people from around the country who have different options and political views to discuss the issues surrounding gun wondership. The result of the convening was not a “homerun” or “three-step-fix” but the conversation is continuing and all of those involved are thinking of ways to answer the question of what is the appropriate amount of access to firearms.
A Necessary Point: The NRA
With a name like the National Rifle Association, it is inevitable that this membership-based organization lies at the crux of the “gun issue.”
In 2014, at their national convention, CEO Wayne LaPierre gave a rousing speech saying, “There are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and carjackers and knockout gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers … I ask you: do you trust the government to protect you? We are on our own … The things we care about most are changing … It's why more and more Americans are buying firearms and ammunition.”
Over the last five years, lots of things have changed in America and lots of things have changed for the NRA. In 2018 alone, there was at least one mass shooting a month, more than 20 overall, according to ABC News' definition of a mass shooting. Now, in the summer of 2019, three NRA board members have resigned to show their dissent in the direction of the association.
While the board members cited lack of financial transparency in the organization, it is difficult not to at least consider that the increase in gun violence in our country over the last few years, paired with the unyielding pro-gun lobbying of the NRA, did not contribute at all to the resignation of the board members.
Could it be that as the country attempts to find a compromise to limit gun violence, while protecting the integrity of our Bill of Rights, that at least some of the leadership of the NRA agrees?
What is in Store?
With advocates yelling loudly on both sides of the gun issue, it is difficult to determine a path forward for our country. For every one win by those who are “pro-gun” it seems that there is a win for the “anti-gun” side, as well. Finding pragmatic solutions that can not only protect individual liberty but also enhance public safety seems difficult.
What is interesting is what lawmakers and executives are actually willing to pass.
For example, the Trump administration did issue one gun control measure - the banning of bump stocks. Bump stocks allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire as rapidly as automatics. The ban requires existing bump stocks to be turned in to the government or destroyed. Some cried too little too late, while others argued that their freedom was being curtailed, but this gun regulation could be the tip of the spear to finding other small points of agreement and moving forward incrementally to a solution that benefits all Americans, gun owners and non-gun owners alike.
However, time and again, President Donald Trump has pledged to protect the Second Amendment. In a speech to NRA members, he announced he will not ratify America's participation in the international Arms Trade Treaty.
With 2020 presidential election campaigns in full swing, the only thing we can be sure of is that the debate will continue.
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