Once again public safety in the U.S. is at odds with the gun manufacturing industry, the NRA, and gun fetishism.
Constitutional scholars disagree on the original intent of the Second Amendment. Was it meant to provide states with an organized militia with Congress defining what “militia” meant? Did Congress define “militia” as the National Guard?
It’s difficult to believe that the authors of the constitution desired to add a provision that created an armed rabble that would challenge the central government if its laws happened to displease them – as the NRA and the gun industry would have Americans believe. It seems more likely that the framers sought to create a state-based military reserve that could put down local insurrections, such as Shay’s Rebellion of 1786.
But even if the individual right to own guns is immutable, would individual members of the NRA, of the gun manufacturing industry, of the gun fetish community, sacrifice their children to maintain access to assault rifles, extended magazines, bump stocks, silencers, etc., etc.?
Of course not. But that is exactly what they are asking the public at large to do.
When nothing happened to address gun violence after the Newtown massacre, our nation lost any shred of decency or morality, any standing as a beacon of anything positive or admirable on the global stage. We sent an undeniable message that, in the U.S., we put corporate profits and the mania of gun fetishists above the safety of our children.
The latest abomination in Parkland, Florida has prompted a powerfully articulate and trenchant call for action from the survivors – the very students who were in the line of fire. And we can look to other advanced nations for examples of what that action might look like. The U.S. has over five times the daily gun homicide rate of any other wealthy western nation.
Following the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, Australia’s center-right government banned semi-automatic long guns, instituted a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases, and put additional licensing requirements in place. Before 1996, Australia experienced 13 mass shootings (defined as five or more victims – excluding the perpetrator).
After the new laws took effect? Zero.
In the United Kingdom, the public can legally own shotguns, black powder guns, manually loaded cartridge pistols, and manually loaded center fire rifles. Anyone in possession of a gun must possess either a shotgun or a firearm certificate, which must be renewed every five years.
Canada grants no legal right to own firearms to its citizens. There is a 60-day waiting period for firearm purchases, and licensing for gun owners is mandatory.
License applicants are required to have third-party references, attend safety training, and pass a background check that emphasizes mental, criminal, and addiction screening. Some assault rifles can be legally owned, but are classified “restricted” -- meaning they require special licensure and their use is restricted to activities such as target practice at approved ranges.
Gene Case is a retired mechanical designer -- and former hunter and gun owner -- from Andover.