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Article: The Mass Murder Problem — Again

Second Amendment


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“Either this nation will kill racism, or racism will kill this nation.” (S. Jonas, August, 2018)

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Introductory note to the reader: Regular readers of my columns
will know that I write on this subject on a fairly regular basis (see the note
at the end of the column for a couple of examples), just as I do on
racism. That is because just as this
country is inflicted with institutional racism and has been since its
beginnings, it has also been inflicted with gun violence for much of its
existence. In its modern form, gun violence is underwritten for profit by the gun industry and its various components, and is politically protected by
the Republican Party. In modern times
there has been an ongoing epidemic of gun violence which, for example, resulted
in a total of
close to 40,000
deaths per year in 2018
. Just under 60% of those deaths were suicides; the rest homicides. But of course the reason that I am going with
this column again, updated a bit, is of course because of the two recent mass
murders (and I do wish that they would be called “mass murders,” not “mass
shootings”) that occurred just one week apart, in
Atlanta, GA, and Boulder, CO.

The
political responses to these tragedies have been sadly predictable. Ted Cruz’ (you know who he is, I’m sure) most
quoted comment at a Senate hearing is that “they” (meaning those awful
Democrats) “just want to take your guns away.” Nothing about the tragedies themselves, possible causes, possible remedies. Using the well-honed other Republican line of attack on even the mildest proposals to do something about the periodic slaughters, Sen. John Kennedy (AL) turned quickly to to changing the subject, this time around to drunk driving (about which
there happens to be quite a bit of law, civil and criminal, which of course has
no relationship to mass murder. But we shall leave that discussion for another
time).

The
Democrats, in the Senate at least, have been reduced to calling for “closing
the background check loopholes” to cover private and gun show sales as well as
reinstating the ban on assault rifles. Actually, in the Boulder case the weapon was apparently an assault pistol,
made into a military-style assault rifle, the Ruger 556 (see the
illustration above. Why anyone would need a weapon like that to hunt anything
other than humans is a question for another time. As is the question of just how their manufacturers
and sellers — all to make a profit — sleep at night.)

As every reader of
OpEdNews knows we as a nation have been here before, over and over again. And
as long as the Repubs. have their trigger fingers on at least one branch of the
Federal government, nothing happens. There are several points that can be made
in regard of both why the Repubs. do this and what could actually be done about
the problem, of mass shootings at least. But we will leave that for another day.

Here let’s first let’s deal with the matter
of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution, which, of course is
always at the center of the Constitutional argument, in re “My/their
2nd Amendment Rights.” The Amendment actually reads, to wit:

“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.”

So, in comparison to
what Republicans from Cruz to Boebert say it says — “the right of gun
ownership of any gun, by anyone of any capacity, mental or otherwise, in any
context and for any use, human or animal hunting or otherwise, is to be totally
unregulated and totally beyond the reach of the law, and is to require no
evidence of instruction in use, maintenance, and gun safety, unless a gun owner
just happens to wound or kill another person, (unless of course they can claim
self-defense or, as in the Trayvon Martin case, the target was thought by
the shooter to be “suspicious”
)” — what does the 2nd really say?

For most of its
history the Supreme Court has interpreted it to mean that it does NOT grant to
every citizen an unlimited right to own one or more weapons of unspecified
types. In fact, Former Chief Justice Burger, no weak-kneed radical he, had the
following to say about
the matter
:
“The idea that the Second Amendment guarantees the right of an individual
to own a gun is a ‘fraud.'”

It was
Justice Scalia, in “Heller,” writing for a 5-4 majority, who opened
the door to the “unregulated private gun ownership” argument. Now it
happens that “Heller” refers to guns in the
home
.
But the gun industry front (more on that below), aided by the Repubs. who the
NRA and the Gun Industry fund in massive amounts
, just ran away with
what Scalia said. Further, both Scalia
and the Repubs. of course ignored the first two phrases of the 2nd,
and pretend that its text begins with the words “the right.”

Now, along with the
late Justice Scalia, you might be surprised to know, I happen to be a big fan
of strict constructionism when interpreting the Constitution. Thus, just as Chief Justice Burger did, in reading the 2nd‘s
plain language, when taken as a whole, it is quite obvious that it
can mean only one of two things. First,
it provides a right to the people, in the protection of the free state, to form
well-regulated militias. Or second, it provides to individuals the right to
bear arms, in a well-regulated system for the protection of the free state.

But the NRA and its Republican front-people (e.g. guns-on-the-mantle-Rep.-Boebert of CO) have of course not read it in either of those two ways and
have spent a good deal of time and money making sure that many folks in both
public and the media don’t read it that way either. Thus so far, with the
Repubs. having had substantial control of the Federal government, in one way or
another, for many years now nothing has happened in the way of promoting gun
safety and gun-ownership/control. But in
constructing some kind of long-range political-legal program to deal with this
deadly matter (there have been 5-10 mass murders per
year

for the last 15 years or so) here are several thoughts on what else might be
added to the standard arguments for gun-control legislation that could actually work to reduce
gun deaths.

Even with Scalia’s
opinion in “Heller,” which applied to the regulation of gun ownership
in the home, the door was opened wide to interpreting the 2nd Amendment as
sanctioning unlimited gun-ownership rights only by a mass advertising campaign
run by the NRA and supported by countless Repub. politicians. Regardless, neither the 2nd nor
“Heller” says that. This should be emphasized.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a “Trusted Author,” he is a Senior Editor, (more…)
 

The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author
and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.



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2 Comments

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