Mass Shootings in America

In First World context, “gun control” is like any other policy, loyal to its literal definition – a legal measure to restrict the sale and possession of firearms. The emphasis is on public safety without bordering on the infringement of the personal liberty of citizens. 

American Exceptionalism at its worst

The conspicuous exception among First World nations is the United States, where gun control is nowhere near the desire for public safety, where it ought to focus, but rather a controversial issue that is mired in an insidious political stalemate. Due to the rampancy of mass shootings in the United States (mass murders), citizens can no longer afford to bide time concerning gun control. While “protected” by the United States Constitution, unbelievably easy access to firearms is the primary reason why the United States is the undisputed leader in homicide-by-firearm, a sugarcoated translation of a ghastly truth – mass shootings in the United States is account for 30 percent of all mass shootings worldwide. As of this writing, outside of the 31 people killed, details of the separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio are still yet to be finalized.  The truth is ineluctable – implementation of gun control, by whatever means, or even by repeal of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, logically translates to stopping mass shootings, American lives are therefore spared.

The Second Amendment is obsolete

For the past several decades, mass shootings in America and proposed gun control measures have been at the forefront of political debate, though remaining an effort in futility. The biting truth is that neither thoughts and prayers nor countless vigils for the victims of San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, the Orlando nightclub, Las Vegas, among others, would be of significance if no legislative action is taken. In the aftermath of two more bloody massacres that occurred in a single weekend, the debate on the correlation of gun possession to mass shootings in the United States raises two questions: is it time to consider repealing the Second Amendment? Or should stricter gun control legislation, as gun prohibition is impossible, be passed?   

To liken every American individual’s right to gun possession in the United States in the 21st century to faithful adherence to the Second Amendment is willful ignorance. The deliberate manipulation of the Second Amendment, which gave birth to a fraudulent yet almost traditional interpretation, has withstood seismic shifts in both history and culture, two hundred thirty years and innumerable mass shootings in America later. As such, it behooves anyone with a historical perspective and concern for human lives to examine how and why the Second Amendment came about, and as such, a reiteration of the text is required:

the second amendment

The Second Amendment was ratified on the 15th of December, 1791, only fifteen years removed from the Declaration of Independence on the fourth of July, well during the nation’s infantile years. Necessary to eke out a logical perspective is the staggering difference between 1791 and 21st century United States. Militia, by definition, is a military force formed by the civilian population to reinforce the army in the event of an emergency. The etymology of the word militia cannot be brought into question, for it made its way into the English language in the 16th century. Which therefore necessitates the discussion of what the framers of the United States Constitution had in mind when they raised the importance of a militia. The United States, after gaining independence from Britain, was well-aware of significant dangers posed to its sovereignty, and thus, a capable militia was a vital element of the defense. Suspicion of collective danger proved correct, even many years post-independence, demonstrated by the War of 1812. Also, attacks of Native American tribes aided by Britain were commonplace, with the aim of impeding American expansion to the west, and so a well-regulated militia was invaluable. Fear of slave rebellions also prompted the need for a well-regulated militia. For more obvious reasons, due to the untamed wilderness where rural Americans made their livelihood, attacks by wild animals were always anticipated. These factors that constituted a direct threat to American lives prompted the ratification of the Second Amendment.

The prevailing interpretation of the Second Amendment was borne of paradoxical circumstances, during the ascent of the United States as a major world power, not long after the turn of the 19th century. Over the next several decades, state admission to the Union would multiply rapidly, and by the end of the Civil War in 1865, there already were 36 states, with the consummation of American westward expansion all but guaranteed. In the same fashion, the American military might grew leaps and bounds, neutralizing the need for a militia. In the same manner, the Second Amendment had become obsolete when the United States developed considerable military firepower to defend its homeland. Thus, the need to call on the militia to supplement the military had since become archaic, as the armed forces had already effectively become the “full-time militia.”  Looking back, the Second Amendment, ideally, should have been repealed as far back as during the Reconstruction era.

Misinterpretation of the Second Amendment has become embedded in the American way of life to the extent that even fairly-informed Americans view gun possession as a birthright, forever protected by the Constitution. Misinterpretation is a most fitting description, for what most Americans are unaware of is that the Constitution, as well-written as it is, is neither flawless nor unassailable. Lest gun-loving Americans forget, their Constitution’s finer interpretation of humanity until recently had been questionable at best, as it implicitly condoned slavery up until one and a half centuries ago, and women were not allowed to vote up until a century ago. In keeping with equality (which it so hypocritically espoused), slavery and prohibition of women to vote were only declared unconstitutional fairly recently, by way of landmark constitutional amendments. For what it is worth, Americans also tend to forget that it was the narrow-minded Eighteenth Amendment outlawed the sale and consumption of alcohol (Prohibition), resulting in the spread of organized crime which quenched the American commoner’s thirst for alcohol. Recognizing its negative ramifications, the Twenty-first Amendment overturned Prohibition.

It appears that Americans have a very short memory, or are simply not keen to learn from mistakes, proven by the aforementioned amendments. The Second Amendment is in no way superior to other Amendments. In view of the emotional attrition inflicted on the American people by weekly mass shootings, followed by the callous "mourning-thoughts-and-prayers-inaction cycle", it is not far-fetched that the country is flirting with another civil war pitting gun control advocates against gun control opponents, should a political stalemate persist. Americans cannot withstand another blow, putting it mildly. It is time for another Constitutional Amendment.

A modest proposal: gun control, not prohibition

In consideration of the difficult yet surmountable challenge of repealing the Second Amendment, even the least reasonable gun-loving American would agree that legislation prohibiting individual gun possession is an impossible feat, for the time being at least, despite the mind-bending regularity of mass shootings in America. With prohibition being such a tall order, gun control is the most workable solution to curb mass shootings in the United States. How so? By enacting laws that would grant the right and purchasing power to psychologically fit individuals. If gun possession is confined only to Americans who have been clinically proven to be psychologically fit, instances of gun violence and mass shootings in the United States would drop dramatically.

So-called protectors of the Second Amendment are almost always quick to point out a logical fallacy: “guns do not kill people, mentally ill people with guns kill people.” The statement obviously backpedals from the aspect of firearm accessibility being the reason, as it smears their concept of American Exceptionalism. If guns were blamed, then American Exceptionalism would be thrown under the bus as such a notion would expose the United States as inferior in one way or another to other countries due to its inability to solve gun violence. The logic is supremely twisted, to say the least, for it is a well-known fact that in the United States, it is way easier for an individual to purchase multiple high-powered guns than to get a driver’s license. That said, even the least informed gun-loving American would agree to this irrefutable truth – some people simply cannot be trusted with guns. Frequently banished from the political discussion surrounding gun control is the psychological deficiencies of the perpetrators of most, if not all the mass shootings in the United States. Could extensive psychological testing have thwarted the ill intent of the perpetrators? Most certainly. Second Amendment protectors only ought to look at this angle to reach an understanding that gun control is a more realistic, more socially beneficial step to take for the meantime. Supposing legislative action is already in place if an individual obsessed with the twisted interpretation of the Second Amendment wishes to purchase a gun, he/she will have to undergo rigorous tests to confirm mental stability and provide a plausible reason to justify the purchase.

However, determining whether an individual is fit to be entrusted with firearms does not stop at the reason for purchase and psychological fitness. It is reasonable to suspect that the implementers of testing (psychologists and psychiatrists, medical professionals) could either be undermined or overpowered by more powerful Second Amendment institutions or individuals and hence, the implementers should be a stand-alone, incorruptible entity. The approach to testing an individual should be direct yet probing: 1) what is the reason for getting a license? 2) If the license was previously revoked, what is the reason for renewal? 3) Length of familiarity and exposure to firearms; 4) Is the applicant willing to undergo exhaustive gun education to warrant state or federal sponsorship? 5) Does the applicant possess a history of violence/suicidal tendencies? 5) Does the applicant have a history of violence as a by-product of substance abuse?

While only a mere proposal, these are sound, foolproof methods that can conquer partisan barriers towards achieving a common goal – avoidance of pointless loss of lives. It is disgusting and unfathomable enough to concede to the fact that mass shootings have become so American like baseball and jazz, but a political stalemate would be far worse. A compromise should be reached so lives can be saved and so as to not deprive mentally fit individuals the right to bear arms, and still be “in keeping” with the “well-regulated militia” part, just to satisfy the adherents of the Second Amendment. The more realistic path towards eradicating mass shootings in America hinges on gun control – which can be made possible by a combination of collaborative action, an incisive review of statistics, and unyielding concern for the citizenry.  

Neither controversial nor political

The United States is at a crossroads, politically and socially. While politics can take the blame for the other issues that should have been long settled, mass shootings are far too serious to even involve politics. The human toll caused by mass shootings in America has reached the tipping point. Without legislation, gun violence will never cease and mass shootings might soon overtake disease as the number one killer of Americans, exaggeration aside. Partisan lines must be broken down in order to arrive at a solution, with gun control as the most practical, most attainable one. Action must be taken now before another mass shooting nearby grabs hold of the headlines.

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