Sunday, December 16, 2012
The Second Amendment: Guns Then and Guns Now...
The issue of guns and our rights as citizens of the United States is a hotly contested one. On one side of the issue is the pro gun group, which believes the Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment guarantees us the right to bear arms. In spite of the Amendment's language, which included the phrase "well regulated," some in that camp feel that regulations/limitations on citizens owning guns is a repression of our fundamental rights as Americans. On the other side is the gun control group who believes in varying degrees of restrictions up to in some cases, an outright ban of guns in our society, except for law enforcement and military personnel.
As our Country debates and argues about where the line, if any, should be drawn, I wanted to look back at the weapons of the day when James Madison wrote the 2nd Amendment.
Here's a short video on what appears to be a pretty proficient man shooting, reloading and shooting a musket from that era (1700-1800's):
About 46 seconds to load and discharge the weapon three times.
Compare that with today's semi automatic handguns which can shoot upwards of 9-10 shots in just a few seconds...
Or, compare it with this military grade rifle, a Bushmaster XM-15, which can shoot upwards of a hundred shots in a very short time:
These were the weapons reported to have been used by Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last Friday.
I don't pretend to be able to speak for Madison or what he really meant when he wrote the second amendment back in the late 1700's. But I can't imagine he could've conceived of the advances in gun technology we have today. Madison and his peers were intelligent, thoughtful and reasonable men. I don't think their words were meant to be applied literally in all cases. For those who say otherwise, the one document that is generally considered even more sacred than the Constitution, the Bible, has much of its content either modified or disregarded in many cases. Only the most extreme Christians embrace a literal application of the Bible words.
If we can handle some adjustments to the Holy Bible, shouldn't we also be able to handle a less than literal interpretation of something written over two hundred years ago? What evidence can be produced that could convince the average citizen that this "right to bear arms" should know no limits and that the difference between "well regulated" and "regulated at all" isn't supposed to be meaningful? Too often, any discussion that would see further limits applied to the availability of these military grade weapons is met by emotional reactions and protests by the pro-guns rights crowd.
Can't we all agree that eliminating these high-power weapons from general public use wouldn't in and of itself violate Madison's meaning? Keep traditional hunting, sport and self protection weapons available with proper background checks, which may need to be beefed up in some cases. Allow the hunters, sportsmen and people who wish to own guns to defend their loved ones and property to do so. Remove the high capacity technology from the average American citizen and save it for trained law enforcement and military personnel.
Wouldn't a reasonable man like Madison, or reasonable men like his peers, find it, well, reasonable?