According to its Preamble, the Constitution was ordained and established “…to insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare” as well as securing “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity….”
Presumably nothing has altered that original intent. No amendment has been made to the Constitution saying that insuring domestic tranquility, promoting the general welfare and securing the blessing of liberty, etc. are no longer the objective. Even when the Bill of Rights—including the Second Amendment—was passed and adopted as the first ten amendments to the Constitution, the Preamble as originally written was left intact.
So we have to conclude that persons going to church, as they surely did in the 18th Century, or to the market, as they did, or to school, as children did, or attending a Fourth of July parade, which we can assume they did—that those adults and children could do those various things without fearing that they would be gunned down by someone wielding a firearm—be it a musket, a six-shooter, or an AR 15.
It was 81 years ago that President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed the Four Freedoms—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear. And yet, in 2022, we don’t enjoy freedom from fear. We hear elected officials seriously, with a straight face, arguing that we need to “harden” our schools to protect our children from attack. Do we also need to harden our supermarkets, our churches and synagogues, and our public gatherings?
America has an abundance of firearms—handguns, semi- and automatic rifles—perhaps as many as 400 million. That means that we have more firearms than people. In 2020, more than 45,000 people died from firearm incidents, including murders, suicides and accidents. That was about 2,000 more deaths than from automobile accidents in 2021, a bad year. The FBI tracks “active shooter incidents”, which are defined as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” From 2016 through 2020, the United States experienced an increase in these incidents—from 20 in 2016, to 31 in 2017, 30 in 2018 and 2019 and 40 in 2020. In 2021, the FBI designated 61 such incidents—three times as many in five years.
Reading the headlines, listening on radio, watching on television, we see a steady presence of these events. In 2022, The New York Times reports we have had more than 300 mass shootings, with 28 involving four or more deaths.
We hear a lot about Second Amendment rights—about the right to own a weapon and perhaps to carry it, openly or concealed.
What about the rest of us—those of us who have no desire to carry a weapon, or are uncomfortable around civilians who are armed, whether openly or concealed? Why do the 70 percent of us who don’t own a firearm have to sacrifice our right to feel safe in public so that the 30 percent who do own them—aided and abetted by five robed men and a woman—may carry their guns unrestricted? The argument about mental health etc. is specious, as is the “good guy with a gun” theory. Statistics show that few mass killers qualify as mentally ill, and for those who do, we find out about their mental illness after the fact, which is to say too late. As for the “good guy with a gun” argument, where was he in Pittsburgh, or Minneapolis, or Charleston, or Las Vegas, or Uvalde or Highland Park? We wouldn’t need good guys with guns if everyone, including bad guys, weren’t so easily permitted to acquire their weapons.
We’re long past the day when the Second Amendment should overshadow our right to be safe and secure, not only in our homes but in our communities as we go about our innocent, necessary daily lives.
There was a time, within the memory of many of us, when firearms were more tightly and constitutionally regulated. Hardening schools and other gathering places wasn’t necessary. What has changed? Have Americans become more violent? Or has violence become more possible—and probable—because the barriers that prevented it have been removed?
As assault weapons have become more available, mass murder has become more possible. There’s a correlation there, and we might assume a causal connection as well.
It’s time for a rebalancing of rights, so that the interests of the general, unarmed public are weighed favorably against the vocal minority insisting on the unrestricted right to keep and bear arms.