When It Comes to Gun Control, We Have an Accountability Problem in the U.S.

by David T. Bruce

guncontrolThe argument of gun control – either too much or the lack thereof – has taken center stage once again in the societal and political arenas, as a result of the murders near the University of California, Santa Barbara. The debate remains predictable and heated. Victims want additional gun control or at least the enforcement of gun control measures. Gun advocates argue that we do not have a gun problem in the United States; we have a people problem. Three of the victims in Santa Barbara were murdered with a knife, so gun advocates argue that we don’t have a knife problem; we have a people problem. When people are injured or killed due to the poor choices of a driver, we don’t have a vehicle problem; we have a people problem.

But is it really that simple? Do we turn a blind eye to tragedy merely to maintain a lifestyle we have become accustomed to, clinging to an ideal that has outlived its usefulness?

The first line of defense for those that advocate for the proliferation of firearms is the Second Amendment, which maintains that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The prefacing text that suggests the necessity of “a well regulated militia” is often overlooked. We could certainly launch an argument that, other than our armed services, including the National Guard, a militia is not in place in our country, and that if there is one, it is certainly not well regulated. Yet the NRA continues to advance the sentiment of this “right” that has little bearing on today’s society.

With each murder or accidental death resulting from the use of firearms, the NRA launches a barrage of theories and pointed arguments that demonizes everyone and everything except guns. The notion that we have the “right” to bear arms wherever and whenever we please is taking on a new dimension, as recently demonstrated by the actions of Open Carry Texas members. Indeed, while this is suggestive of a “people problem,” the problem manifests itself as a direct result of guns. Would these same people become as incensed about losing the right to carry knives (also, considered “arms” by the way)?

And for those who argue that we don’t have laws prohibiting knives, such legislation is not out of the realm of possibility. In addition to the variety of firearms prohibited in the United Kingdom, knives are likewise legislated. Many of us might find this inconceivable. But if indeed we do have a “people problem” in the United States, then it stands to reason that certain temptations should be legislated.

Automobiles are, in fact, legislated or controlled. Before you purchase a car, a license is required. Prior to receiving your license, you must past a written test and a driving test. Prior to testing, you must complete a driving course. Prior to taking the course, you must obtain a learner’s permit. Of course, these requirements vary from state to state, but the point is that you cannot go to a dealership and buy a car without some proof that you have a minimal understanding of what it takes to operate a motor vehicle. You can’t even test drive a car without filling out paperwork and providing the dealership with a copy of your license – a license you must obtain prior to having the right to drive. Such oversights and controls do not exist for firearms.

In most (if not all) states, bar owners and bartenders may be held liable for serving a person who is intoxicated. They may also be liable for accidents or injuries that occur outside of the establishment as a result of intoxication. Does this eliminate drunk driving? Does this mean that a vehicle could not potentially kill someone? Of course not, but the issue is addressed and someone is being held accountable. Such is not the case for gun owners and gun dealers. Any effort to hold gun dealers accountable has been effectively derailed by the NRA.

And in terms of gun control, we not only have a people problem, we have an accountability problem. Very few people are being held accountable by local or federal governments. Ironically, those who hold strongest to their “right” to bear arms often claim that they fear that the government is duplicitous, trying to take away our rights.

Our government is certainly not above reproach. Our elected representatives – all of them, of every party – are certainly suspect to a menagerie of shady dealings, legislating as a means to line their pockets and serve their own needs, hence the close-knit relationship our government has with the NRA. That being the case, if our government were indeed hell-bent on creating a police state in this country, there is little any of us could do. And besides, who would vote for them then? Edward Snowden has shown us that we have much more to worry about in regards to our government and our rights in general than the repealing of the Second Amendment.

Every citizen has the right to live without fear of being shot because someone thought they were in danger or because someone was irresponsible with their gun. And I don’t care if the perpetrator is a hardened criminal or my next door neighbor! Does it matter who discharges the weapon?


Our Most Powerful Right

…we are oblivious to what the government is doing in terms of promoting corporate rights over individual rights. We ignore government policies that do little to curb deterioration of the environment. We ignore the federal government’s lack of response in answer to unemployment, poor health care, and inflation.

by David T. Bruce

usa-1327105_1280The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution will soon be the subject of debate again in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The amendment stating that “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.”  Following the decision that prevented Washington D.C. from legislating gun control within that district, the Supreme Court endeavors to determine if individual states can legislate gun control.

The issue of gun control is regularly and hotly contested.  Proponents vehemently uphold the Second Amendment, and opponents catalogue lives lost as a result of a person who lawfully owned a handgun and used that handgun unlawfully.  I argue that we do indeed have a right to own a gun, but we do not have a right to take a life as we see fit or endanger our neighbors and communities.  How do we balance this right with reality, though?

Essentially, Second-Amendment advocates demand that they have the right to own a gun because our forefathers said so.  Yes, the forefathers did state in the amendment that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  However, the amendment also reads that it was and is necessary to have “a well regulated Militia.”  What well regulated indicates is that in all likelihood, the militia should have leadership.  The intent was not for everyone to have a weapon and shoot as they please.  In the twenty-first century, this is precisely what we have.

As well, the intent was to prevent the government from impeding on the individual rights of a citizen by entering the home without just cause and to prevent a foreign militia from detaining United States citizens.  While we can argue that the likelihood of the latter is possible, we can also argue that the lack of the aforementioned well regulated militia would prevent any one person from being reasonably successful at deterring such an attack.  In respect to the likelihood of a government official entering a home without just cause, that too is remote.

Of all the challenges we currently face in the United States, I am often amazed at what comes to the forefront for debate.  We seem to put a great deal of emphasis on these “rights” that were handed down to us over two-hundred years ago, yet we ignore what our local, state, and federal officials are doing to our rights one day at a time.  We seem so worried about what the federal government is doing to trample on our Constitutional rights, but we are oblivious to what the government is doing in terms of promoting corporate rights over individual rights.  We ignore government policies that do little to curb deterioration of the environment.  We ignore the federal government’s lack of response in answer to unemployment, poor health care, and inflation.

The most powerful right we have as citizens of the United States is the right to vote, and maybe . . . maybe . . . one-half of our population exercises that right at any given time.  The rest of us don’t even pick up that weapon, let alone pull the trigger.  We can minimize or eliminate blatantly corrupt officials from the government by paying attention to what these officials are doing, paying attention to how they are voting on pertinent issues, and voting them out of office when their term is due.  In extreme cases, we have the right to remove corrupt officials from office before their term is over.  Yet we dismiss this right every single day. Our voice is as strong as any weapon, if we collectively choose to use our right to vote.