Revisiting The Second Amendment And Gun Violence.

“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.”

I draw your attention to the full text of the amendment since the first 12 words are seldom mentioned. In fact, in the NRA headquarters, only the last half of the text is emblazoned on the wall. But, if you believe in the wisdom of the authors of our Constitution, you cannot parse the words to suit your own purposes. You must accept the document in its entirety.

We once had a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States who believed so. In a 1991 PBS interview, he stated, “The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud – I repeat the word fraud – on the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the 2nd Amendment was to ensure that state armies – the militia – would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the 2nd Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”

The point is that the amendment was written to ensure for the defense of the US against foreign governments at a time when our nation had no standing army, no Navy, no Air Force, no Marine Corps, no Coast Guard. Instead, the nation’s defense relied upon state militias comprised of volunteers…what have, in effect, become our state governed National Guard units.

Now that we have the world’s most effective military, the 2nd Amendment is no longer necessary. Since our government is “of the people, by the people and for the people,” the military serves us. There is no longer a need for citizens to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia. What about the potential for government tyranny? The current administration aside, that is a remote possibility. And even if the government decided to impose martial law on the land, no disorganized band of civilians armed with an arsenal of AR-15s and AK-47s will prevail against a well-trained government army with tanks, artillery, fighter jets and nuclear weapons.

That said, let’s talk about our gun problem and what can be done to reduce gun violence, including mass shootings.

There are an average of 297 shootings each day in the US – more than 108,000 per year! Those shootings result in 11,000 murders per year and an uncounted number of wounded – many with lifelong debilitating injuries. There are 20,000 suicides from guns each year, resulting in an annual total of 33,000 deaths from guns.

More than 2,600 hundred children are killed by guns each year.

The US averages more than one mass shooting per day (as defined by 4 or more victims per shooting). Since the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there have been 1,500 mass shootings resulting in more than 1,700 people killed and more than 6,000 wounded (not counting those who were likely shot and killed today).

If you’re human; if you live in America, those statistics should frighten you! But before you run out and purchase a gun for self-defense, consider this: Guns are not defensive weapons. They are offensive weapons. In a gun fight, the first person to pull their gun usually wins. So, if someone points a gun at you, your own gun will do you little good. In fact, if you have a gun in your house, you’re 80 percent more likely to use it on yourself than any criminal.

To further debunk the “good guy with a gun myth,” consider the FBI analysis of 160 active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2013, excluding shootings related to gang or drug violence. Those incidents resulted in 1,043 casualties – 486 killed, 557 wounded. The FBI found that 1 in 5 were stopped by a potential victim at the scene and most of those were unarmed! Only 5 were stopped by “good guys with guns.” And, in 21 of 45 incidents that required law enforcement to engage the shooter, 9 officers were killed and 28 were wounded, despite their training and their body armor!

Do you still think arming teachers is the answer to school shootings?

Every independent study shows a clear connection between gun violence and the number of guns. Nevertheless, Americans now own more than 300 million guns. Despite the fact that the number of individuals who own guns is actually declining, the number of gun sales is increasing dramatically. That’s because 6 million Americans – mostly white men -now own 10 or more guns. There are studies that show many of those people have psychological problems. And there are additional studies that show a clear connection between gun violence and domestic violence or violence against animals.

The only apparent answer to our epidemic of gun violence is to treat it as we do other epidemics – with intervention, outreach, and education. We should institute universal background checks and a database of gun ownership. To make the ATF’s job easier, we should institute a waiting period for anyone wanting to purchase a gun. We should ban both open and conceal carry – going back to the policies before the lobbying of the NRA. We should ban all semi-automatics. Not just military-style weapons. That’s because most semi-automatics can be just as deadly. And bolt-action, pump-action and lever-action are perfectly acceptable for most hunters. We should limit magazines to 9 rounds. We should limit the quantities of ammunition sold. And we should take weapons away from violent felons, domestic abusers, animal abusers and the mentally ill who are diagnosed with violent tendencies – toward others or themselves.

It’s time to ignore the NRA and the GOP. It’s time to change!

Our Present And Future With Guns.

According to Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center, only 22% of Americans are gun owners. Yet there are an estimated 300 million guns in the US, not including those owned by our military. More than 6 million Americans own 10 or more guns. 10 or more? Seriously? Let’s see…a small gauge shotgun for small birds, a large gauge shotgun for larger birds, a small caliber hunting rifle for small game, a large caliber hunting rifle for large game, a small caliber handgun for accuracy, a large caliber handgun for “stopping” power, a military-style assault weapon for potential government tyrants, a .50 caliber sniper rifle for assassinations and blowing holes in the occasional engine block, and…??? That’s only 8. What am I missing? I’m at a loss to explain what more a 2nd Amendment-spouting, freedom-protecting “patriot” could need to arm themselves for any eventuality.

Obviously, the US has a love affair with guns. But though we all face the consequences, that love affair is far from universal.

As previously stated, the majority of guns are in the hands of a few. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, consider this: A large percentage of those 300 million guns are in the hands of the members of the 784 hate groups as recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including KKK, Neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, Skinheads, Black Separatists, Neo-Confederates, Anti-LGBT, Christian Identity and other assorted general hate groups and individuals, such as the Sovereign Citizen Movement. Shockingly, a not insignificant percentage of their members are ex-military, active-duty military, former law enforcement officers and border patrol…even active-duty law enforcement (which may help to explain the increase in police brutality against minority populations)!

These people seem to believe that guns are the answer to most every conflict – a view endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and modeled in many US-made movies, television programs and video games. But our choices of entertainment are, most certainly, not the root of our gun problem. In fact, the source of our problem is the NRA and the gun manufacturers it represents, which have flooded our communities with guns – guns that are becoming increasingly more lethal. Though other nations share our taste in entertainment and celebrate our culture, and though many other nations are less religious than the US, no other advanced country rivals the US when it comes to the number of gun deaths (including homicides)!

The glaring difference between the US and those other countries is the availability of guns.

For example, in a recent attempt to determine how easy it is to obtain guns in the US, a reporter for The Guardian found that it took just 2 hours for him to be offered an AK-47, an illegally-modified fully-automatic AR-15 and numerous handguns – some of which had been smuggled and some of which had been purchased legally. His experience is hardly unique. In many neighborhoods in many of our nation’s cities, you can purchase a gun within a few minutes, local gun laws be damned. For example, many of the guns used in crimes in Chicago are originally purchased legally in Indiana and cities along the I-35 corridor where gun laws are weak. They are then resold in Chicago to individuals wishing to avoid background checks. This pattern is supported by studies that show the majority of guns used in crimes are purchased illegally from unlicensed gun dealers or uncaring dealers in states with the greatest gun culture and the weakest gun laws.

And, thanks to the NRA’s stated belief that the best solution for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, there is a growing vigilante movement in the US exemplified by the armed woman who took it upon herself to shoot at shoplifters in the parking lot of The Home Depot in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Contrary to the gun lovers’ beliefs, such behavior is the worst nightmare of most law enforcement officials. After all, imagine you’re an officer responding to an active shooter situation and you see several armed people shooting at one another. Who is the good guy? Who is the bad guy? Are they all bad guys? You simply have to treat them all as threats.

And what about the legal implications of the “good guy” behavior? Disregarding the fact that few crimes are stopped by armed citizens and that armed citizens are more likely to be shot with their own guns than to stop a crime, such vigilante behavior poses problems. Police are supposed to be restricted from shooting at a suspect in a non-life-threatening situation. What about the armed “good guys?” Is it acceptable for a private citizen to shoot and kill a shoplifter? If the criminals are not armed and not threatening others, is it legally permissible to shoot to kill? If an unarmed shoplifter is subject to lethal force, is a bully engaged in a fistfight? How about a citizen engaged in a shouting match? An unarmed robber? An armed robber? Where do we draw the line?

The fact is, this nation is being held hostage by the gun lobby. We have allowed the NRA to write Conceal and Carry, Open Carry and “Stand Your Ground” laws that encourage people like George Zimmerman to shoot innocent, unarmed people. The NRA wants even more people to be armed. And it refuses to consider common sense gun safety laws. Despite a large majority of its members supporting more thorough, universal background checks, the NRA leadership has drawn a bright line in the sand. Any restriction on gun ownership is seen as a violation of the Constitution (if you choose to ignore the first phrase of the 2nd Amendment). Moreover, mass shootings are good for business as demonstrated by the gun shop owner in Roseburg, Oregon who stocked up on guns and ammo following the shooting at nearby Umpqua Community College. She knows that there is always a run on guns and ammo following mass shootings. Such greed aside, more guns are not the answer to gun violence. In fact, numerous studies have clearly shown that more guns equal more gun violence. Not less.

More important, the blatant lies of the NRA which pronounce guns the solution, not the problem, may well lead to a breakdown in our legal system. Vigilante “justice” could soon replace our courts. The entire US could resemble the Old West – only with more shootings and less shame.

What If We Applied The NRA Philosophy Internationally?

Since the latest mass shooting in the United States comes at a time when Teapublicans are denouncing the Iran Nuclear Agreement, it makes me wonder: “What if we treated all armaments the same way as the National Rifle Association and its Teapublican supporters want us to treat guns?” If their answer to mass shootings is to place guns in the hands of more and more people, why not treat nuclear arms the same way?

According to NRA and Teapublican logic, that should make us all feel safer.

There are nine countries confirmed to have nuclear weapons and delivery systems. If we follow the NRA’s logic, shouldn’t we encourage all nations to obtain them? Do you feel safer knowing that Pakistan has nuclear weapons? North Korea? I suspect not. Then why should Americans feel safer knowing that crazy Uncle Larry has an AR-15 assault rifle? Why should the recently divorced woman feel safer knowing that her ex is armed with a semi-automatic handgun? Why should we feel safer in the knowledge that, without universal background checks, virtually any sociopath can obtain such firepower? Why should we feel safer knowing that domestic terrorists, such as the racist young man in Charleston, the young man in Chattanooga and the angry anti-government “patriot” in Lafayette have easy access to guns?

Of course, we shouldn’t feel safe. Because, thanks to the NRA and our insane gun laws, any American can choose from a wide array of weaponry of ever-increasing lethality.

Teapublicans say that Iran should be denied nuclear weapons at all costs. They say the Obama administration shouldn’t have negotiated any deal with Iran; that we should have increased economic sanctions until Iran buckled; or, following Netanyahu’s advice, we should just attack Iran’s nuclear installations. Yet that stance is completely counter to the Teapublicans’ stance on the ever-increasing proliferation of semi-automatic handguns and assault weapons in the US.

Why the difference?

If we want to make this a safer world, we should not allow Iran and other far less stable nations to obtain nuclear weapons. The new international agreement is the best possible way to ensure that. Likewise, we should not allow the continued proliferation of increasingly lethal guns in the US. A law requiring universal background checks and a ban on the sale of all semi-automatic weapons to civilians will reduce the number of mass shootings.

Guns For Everyone, Everywhere!

For years, I thought the National Rifle Association could stoop no lower than its role as shill for the gun manufacturers. The US has never restricted gun ownership, but the NRA has routinely pushed for increased accessibility and ever more lethal weapons. As a result, Americans may now purchase a 50-caliber semi-automatic sniper rifle powerful enough to blow a hole in a car’s engine block at a distance of 1,000 yards. You may now own a semi-automatic assault rifle with high capacity magazines that will permit you to shoot dozens of people without the inconvenience of having to stop to reload. And, if the NRA has its way, you will soon be able to legally purchase a silencer for your weapons that will allow you to shoot people while avoiding detection.

Who wouldn’t need that?

What began as an organization dedicated to helping young men improve their marksmanship for hunting and for possible military service, has morphed into a lobbying group with a mission of eliminating all laws and restrictions with regard to the purchase and carry of handguns. Now the NRA is working on open carry laws that will allow any paranoid dimwit to openly carry a loaded weapon anywhere at any time. By contrast, in many cities and towns, martial artists are still unable to purchase or carry nunchuku, shurikens (Asian throwing stars) or certain kinds of knives. After all, without such restrictions, the national nunchuku murder rate might soar to…ummm…one. And convenience stores would be under constant threat of being robbed at shuriken point.

Sarcasm aside, those restrictions came from a day when the American public actually cared about preventing violence. From a time when the lack of a conspicuous presence of guns was a sign of advanced civilization. A time when the primary reason for owning a gun was for home protection and for hunting. A time before the gun manufacturers and the NRA convinced the most paranoid amongst us that carrying a gun was the only thing that stood between them and tyranny.

In order to keep the majority of Americans from understanding the true dangers of our obsession with guns, the NRA has successfully lobbied to prevent the government from tracking gun deaths, to prevent the registration of firearms and ammunition, to prevent universal background checks of gun purchases, to prevent so-called straw buyers from purchasing guns for felons, even to prevent pediatricians from talking to parents about gun safety in the home.

All of that is bad enough. But now the NRA is fighting proposed gun restrictions for those who have been convicted of domestic abuse and those who are mentally ill, stating, “Not only is this unjust and stigmatizing, it creates disincentives for those who need mental health treatment to seek it, increasing whatever risks are associated with untreated mental illness.”

In other words, the NRA wants everyone to own guns and to carry them everywhere. Anything less is, in the NRA’s words, “an assault on the Second Amendment.” The problem is that the NRA conveniently ignores the first part of that amendment. Yes, the amendment does say, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” But only after it states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

Reading the many papers written by the Founding Fathers, the intent of the Second Amendment becomes clear…since the new nation had no standing army, the Founders saw a need for a citizen militia to protect the nation. They had no concern of tyranny from within – the democratic process was considered protection from that. The real threat was from the British Army and the armies of other foreign governments. But now that the US has the most powerful military force on Earth, there is no longer a need for an armed militia. As a result, the Second Amendment has lost its meaning and its true purpose. All of those guns that are owned and carried by Americans are being used to shoot other Americans at a rate of more than 33,600 per year…roughly the equivalent of twelve 9/11 attacks each and every year!

The Founders could have never foreseen the lethality of the weapons available today. Just as they could not have imagined that a lobbying group representing a tiny fraction of the population would be so effective at convincing Congress to suspend common sense and reason.

The Government Of Me.

As the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party continues to express outrage at our federal government, it becomes increasingly clear that the Tea Party simply does not understand the concept of a democratic republic. Its members ignore the fact that the Articles of Confederation were replaced by a Constitution that created a strong, centralized federal government. They ignore the fact that the power of the federal government versus the power of the states was thoroughly debated by our Founding Fathers, and the Federalists won. They quote the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment while ignoring all of its original Articles that gave the federal government sweeping powers to “provide for the general Welfare of the United States.”

Indeed, they even seem to ignore the “United” in United States!

At the heart of the Tea Party anger seems to be a misunderstanding of what constitutes a democracy. By its very nature, a democracy is based on majority rule. That means a minority, sometimes a significant minority, is often unhappy with the direction of our government. And, as the result of a quirk in our Electoral College, following the 2000 presidential election, a significant majority of our citizens were unhappy with the outcome, having voted for another candidate.

The Tea Party members refuse to acknowledge that President Obama was elected and re-elected by significant majorities of voters. They ignore the fact that the 2012 election was, in essence, a referendum on support for the middle class; for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

They continue to claim that Obama was born in Kenya and should, therefore, be disqualified from holding the office of president. They continue to howl that financial and environmental regulations are “job killers.” They consider his signature accomplishment of making health care affordable to all Americans a socialist government “takeover.” And, instead of accepting majority rule, they seem determined to take away the voting rights of African-Americans, Latinos, students, women, and the poor – anyone who might vote against the Tea Party agenda.

In other words, as they wave the American flag and their pocket copies of the Constitution with only the Second and Tenth Amendments highlighted, they are attempting to cut out the very heart of our democracy…that of majority rule.

The Tea Party refuses to accept that our nation is evolving; that the minorities of brown and black are the majorities of the future. The “I’ve got mine, you can’t have yours” crowd can’t bear the idea of change; of giving power to others. I believe that is what’s behind their animosity toward President Obama.

They can’t accept forward-thinking ideas such as investing in our failing infrastructure while interest rates are at all-time lows. They can’t understand that a tax policy that punishes greed and rewards corporate investment in our nation benefits the vast majority of our citizens. They can’t grasp that jobs paying a living wage are necessary to the health of our nation and benefit us all. They can’t see that an environmental policy that conserves the health of our planet benefits everyone. As long as they have theirs, they refuse to accept the notion that affordable health care and a comfortable retirement are rights, not benefits.

Our Founding Fathers had the wisdom to create a government “of the people, by the people and for the people” – the majority of people.

If you want a government “of the people, by the people and for me” you’re in the wrong place. You should find a remote, uninhabited island where you can become supreme dictator. Otherwise, it’s time you learned to accept majority rule.

Arizona’s War On The Environment.

Arizona has a long love affair with the gun. Its legislature even named the Colt .45 as the state’s official gun. Gun shops are everywhere. And there’s at least one gun show in the state every weekend. On the other hand, there are few gun clubs or official firing wages.

So where do Arizonans go to fire all of these weapons?

They simply go into the wilderness. They shoot virtually anything in sight, whether it’s legal or not. They blast away at targets and bottles, leaving spent cartridges, broken bottles, targets and other trash in their wake. Increasingly, they leave the forest smoldering.

Over the last few years, dozens of wildfires throughout the West have been caused by hot lead. It’s difficult enough to keep Arizonans from camping when there’s fire danger; from starting campfires; from off-roading; even from flicking cigarette butts out their car windows.┬áBut no one’s going to keep Arizonans from exercising their “God-given”, Constitutional right to set the wilderness on fire.

A case in point is the Doce wildfire near Prescott. It has already been determined that the fire was human caused, but it’s not yet certain that it is the result of gunfire. What is known is that the fire has consumed thousands of acres, threatening homes. And that it began in the Doce Pit, an area popular for target shooting.