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COLUMN: A little gun control would be good for America

Thursday, July 22, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

LONDON – America is known for its trendsetting.

It’s the land that brought the world McDonald's, Facebook and Lady Gaga. When Americans buy into something, everyone takes notice.

But some hot items are more dangerous than others. A recent article in Marie Claire’s UK edition identified one questionable craze: “Across America, firearms are fast becoming a must-have accessory.”

Trend alert?

It’s long been the stereotype that Brits view America as a gun-toting, violent and generally unrefined nation. The caricature could actually be closer to the truth than we think.

A shocking act of violence here recently threw the issue of gun control in Britain versus America into sharp relief.

In a quiet town in the north of England, 12 people were killed in early June when a taxi driver went on a shooting spree. In its wake, the tragedy left a shaken, paralyzed and livid nation.

One person interviewed following the shootings summed up the British point of view: “You hear of these things happening in America, but not here.”

Ouch. Yet indeed, the British reaction was exactly contrary to that one would expect from the States.

Almost immediately, UK residents and media pressured their government to consider tightening gun laws – even though those in the UK are already among the most stringent in the world.

People were enraged to a degree that would have been unimaginable in the States, and rightly so. Here in the United Kingdom, where the concepts of concealed carry or guns as self-defense are entirely foreign, people view gun control as a matter of course.

Gun crimes here are practically nonexistent. According to the 2010 British Crime Survey, an annual study carried out by the British government, a mere 39 people were victims of fatal gun shootings in England and Wales during the past year (not including the recent and highly uncharacteristic shooting rampage).

Annual statistics compiled by the FBI, however, paint a much different picture: In 2008, a startling 9,484 people were killed in shootings in the US.

Do the math and, accounting for population, a U.S. citizen is nearly 50 times more likely to be shot and killed than someone living in the UK.

Why? It’s because Brits are serious about gun control.

In 1997, a piece of legislation made it nearly impossible to legally own a handgun in the UK. Not even Britain’s Olympic shooters are exempt from the ban, and the team is required to train outside of the country. Special permission was needed to allow any shooting events at the London 2012 Olympics.

Here, even most police officers are not allowed to carry firearms, including Tasers.  Between 2007 and 2008, only 21,181 law enforcement officers were licensed to carry firearms in England and Wales, according to the Home Office.

Owning a gun legally in the UK can be enough to do a person’s head in, as they say here. You need to complete extensive paperwork, exhibit proper competence to the police, and provide a “good reason” for wanting a gun. Oh, and you’ll need independent references to prove you’re sane, too.

Compare this to owning a gun in the U.S. The laws vary slightly by state, but a number of firearms do not even require a permit for purchase.

And a national handgun ban in the States? Not anytime soon.

It appears the United States is moving in the opposite direction. In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against a Chicago handgun ban in a decision that will dramatically hinder states’ efforts to limit gun ownership.

Some people argue that America wouldn’t be free without the Second Amendment to the Constitution, and that gun ownership should not be limited in any way. But have we forgotten what inspired that amendment – or, rather, whom?

Ah, yes. It was the British.

Since the 18th century, Britain has moved on from problems like taxation without representation, oppressive monarchy and overreaching empire. It has accepted its place in modern society as a progressive, First World nation.

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our anti-British, nonconformist, trendsetting nature – but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a good idea and make it our own.

We don’t need 100 percent gun control, but some increased limits would be a positive step.  Allow handgun bans for the urban areas that need them the most, while allowing states more power to dictate specific regulations.  After all, isn’t the right to bear arms only acceptable when it does not infringe on the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Unchecked violence is so last season. Could gun control be the new black?

Rebecca Berg is interning at CBS News and studying in London this summer through a Missouri School of Journalism study abroad program. She will return to the Missourian as an assistant city editor in the fall.


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Comments

sabrina vonbach July 22, 2010 | 7:13 a.m.
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Jar Head1982 July 22, 2010 | 8:47 a.m.
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Mike Flintstone July 22, 2010 | 9:14 a.m.

Quite the spin you put on it ..but , that's no where near the truth. The British Gov has a History of "Playing" with the numbers . Look at what the UK Media says -- ht tp: //w ww . telegraph .co .uk /news /uknews /law-and-order /6438601/Gun-crime-doubles-in-a-decade. ht ml
Also --Look at the CSM article --
ht tp: // w ww. csmonitor. com / USA /Society /2009/ 1223/ More-guns-equal-more-crime-Not-in-2009-FBI-crime-report-shows .
Bottom line , the UK Gun Laws have not created the "Utopia" they hoped for -and it's better that Americans learn that lesson from a distance.
Millions of Legal Gun Owners in the US …and for years we’ve seen our rights systematically taken away. There was very little we could do about it since , we never had enough statistics or studies to defend our position.
Well …that’s changed now. We've had enough.
We now have the facts and studies behind us proving that Gun Control doesn’t work the way the Liberals hoped it would. The anti Gun fanatics offer nothing, they defend their position with the same paranoid rhetoric they’ve relied on for years. Many of the Politicians who drafted these flawed Anti Gun Laws knew nothing about Firearms ..and yet they were allowed to push their agendas at our expense.
Remember this interview ? -- ht tp: //ww w.you tube. com /watch?v= ospNRk2uM3U

The American Public is tired of it .
As their membership falls and their cash runs out ,groups like the Brady Bunch will be remembered as the “Prohibitionists “ of our era .

(Report Comment)
Mike Flintstone July 22, 2010 | 9:18 a.m.

If this is any indicator …it doesn’t look like the Brady anti Gun Org is doing very well .
Ht tp : // ww w. open secrets. Org / pacs/ lookup2 .php? strID = C0011 3449
Where'd all the anti Gun Lobby donations go ?
Guess it's cheaper to post opinions on the Web than reach in your pocket.
The NRA on the other hand is doing great …8 Million Dollars collected from one Company alone just for the Protection of the Second Amendment program.
ht tp : / / ww w. ammoland. com /2 010 /02/ 22/ round-up-contributions -to-nra- ila- from -midwayusa/
Unfortunately , the UK Gun Owners are not as unified as we are.

4 Million NRA Members can’t be ignored

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 22, 2010 | 9:45 a.m.

A news clipping service I receive each weekday has a news story almost everyday about private citizens defending themselves, their family, their home, or their business from criminals with a legally-owned firearm. Tell me how gun control would help in that equation.

(Report Comment)
Virgil Sollozzo July 22, 2010 | 9:58 a.m.
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Bambi B July 22, 2010 | 10:12 a.m.
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Ray Shapiro July 22, 2010 | 10:14 a.m.

Hey Berg:
Read this and then get back to me...
http://www.jrwhipple.com/guns/firearm_fa...
Focus on violent criminal behavior, not on taking away rights from law-abiding citizens and defenders of OUR country's Constitution.

(Report Comment)
Joe Reeser July 22, 2010 | 10:32 a.m.

You wrote: After all, isn’t the right to bear arms only acceptable when it does not infringe on the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

Can your explain how someone carrying a firearm is infringing on someone else's rights? I don't believe you can. My possession of a firearm infringes on no one else's rights. My use of that firearm may. You are advocating that the law-abiding citizen should be denied the exercise of their rights because of some future crime which may be committed, by them or even someone else. You will, of course, make the argument that the law-abiding citizen isn't being punished by such government action and yet there is no doubt that the justice system punishes criminals by removing their ability to exercise rights. Criminals, at least, get what passes for a fair trial. You wish to do the same to the general population with no such safeguards. Aren't people to be assumed innocent in this country? At least until they actually do something? Why do you advocate punishment minus any indication of a crime being committed?

And your suggestion of "Allow[ing] handgun bans for the urban areas that need them the most?" Take a look at DC and Chicago and see how that's worked for them, exactly. Both have extremely high gun violence rates. Both have/had defacto bans on firearms.

(Report Comment)
Walt Biesiada July 22, 2010 | 10:40 a.m.

Ms. Berg. You apparently missed the decision from SCOTUS in the McDonald v Chicago case where it was ruled by a majority that the 2nd Amendment to the constitution is "A Fundamental Right That Applies To All Citizens of The United States". Since the default position of any right is "ON": (1): Just how would you suggest that this RIGHT be circumvented? (2): Since Dr. John Lott published his peer reviewed book "More Guns, Less Crime", why would you want to? (3): How does disarming law abiding citizens help fight criminal use of a weapon?

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock July 22, 2010 | 11:04 a.m.

Dear Readers,

I've already taken down several comments from this string that violate the Missourian's comment policy, which you can read in full at this link: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/p/miss...

Most of the comments I've taken down have come from readers who are not using their real name when they post comments. This is a reminder that all comments here must be done under your real name. I realize this is not the norm for most news sites today, but it's a policy we've actively enforced for some time now and will continue to enforce.

I understand that many readers will not agree with Rebecca's take on gun control. But I would like to encourage everyone to take a page from Ray Shapiro's and Walt Biesiada's playbook and disagree in a respectful manner and under your real names. After all, we're here to have a conversation, not a flame war.

Thank you,

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

(Report Comment)
Michael Jordan July 22, 2010 | 11:40 a.m.

"...while allowing states more power..."

Ms. Berg,

Please see: U.S. Constitution, 10th Amendment.

Michael Jordan
Sterling, VA

(Report Comment)
Zac Early July 22, 2010 | 11:46 a.m.

Isn't Lady Gaga British?

(Report Comment)
Daniel Jordan July 22, 2010 | 12:58 p.m.

"Isn't Lady Gaga British?"

American as the ice cream cone, my friend.

(Report Comment)
Virgil Sollozzo July 22, 2010 | 3:02 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Rob Weir July 22, 2010 | 3:15 p.m.

Mr. Sollozzo, I'm not sure what bothered you about Jake's comment. All we're asking commenters to do is to be civil in their responses (and also to use their real names). Reasonable people can disagree about this topic.

Part of the goal of a good opinion section is to generate lively discussion; the comments we've removed have violated our comment policy, mostly due to the content of our comments being personal attacks on other commenters and/or on Rebecca.

Rob Weir
Director of Digital Development
The Columbia Missourian
weirr (at) missouri.edu
573-882-5057

(Report Comment)
Lee McGee July 22, 2010 | 3:34 p.m.

Please note: 1] Rights predate government. 2] Rights, akin to breathing, require neither permission nor affirmation to exist. 3] Rights exist, and are often most evident, while being violated. 4] Rights are not subject to amendment, revocation, interpretation, nor the democratic process. 5] SCOTUS has consistently ruled the police are not responsible for the safety of the indidividual citizen. So who ya gonna call,...Ghostbusters?
Since the definitions of "unalienable" and "infringed" remain the same today as they were in the 18th century when the Bill of Rights was ratified, one wonders exactly what part of "shall not be infringed" does Ms. Rebecca Berg fail to grasp?
"If any group of men at any given time in our history can decide what the Constitution says, why a written Constitution?" - Frank R. Hogan, President, American Bar Association (1939)
"Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps I could not surrender if I would." - John Adams, American Patriot, U.S. President, and British Traitor

(Report Comment)
Erik Stenberg July 22, 2010 | 3:41 p.m.

Mrs. Berg,

I would like to address this particular quote from you.

"...Allow handgun bans for the urban areas that need them the most, while allowing states more power to dictate specific regulations. After all, isn’t the right to bear arms only acceptable when it does not infringe on the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?"

At least one other commentator noted this but I think it is very very important to emphasize.

On June 28th, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the sort of gun control you propose, a ban of handguns in certain areas, is unconstitutional. I realize you probably had no idea this case was being decided when you wrote your article but I would highly recommend researching the opinion by the majority of the court, as well as the concurring opinions and dissents. This website is from the plaintiff in the case and has all of the court filings you could ever hope to read. http://www.chicagoguncase.com/

The court found that "“The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government—even the Third Branch of Government—the power to decide one case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon.”"

Many people have a hard time reading legal opinions, and that is understandable, but it is quite clear from this decision that the outright bans on handguns would be as unacceptable as a ban on your right to exercise your first amendment rights.

The American people have the right to defend themselves and their families even if a robber or rapist may have their lives or liberties infringed.

(Report Comment)
Rob Johnson July 22, 2010 | 3:55 p.m.

Someone beat me to it, but your perception of Great Britain as a crime-free haven is false. The report you point to is just England and Wales, not all of Great Britain. Scotland (which has a serious crime problem) and Northern Ireland are left out (it appears you also did not take that into account when did your math and divided the gun deaths in England and Wales by the population of the entire UK, not just EW, which leads you to underestimate their problem). You also only point at gun deaths, not all gun crime, or all violent crime. While gun deaths are higher in the US, in virtually every other category of violent crime Great Britain outstrips the US significantly. And personally (since I'm not prejudiced against guns and am not trying to vilify a particular object rather than violence), I care a lot more about whether I'm a victim of violent crime than about the weapon used. My chances are lower of being a victim of violent crime in the US than they were when I lived in Great Britain, and I have the right and ability to defend myself against violent crime here that I did not have there. Those are things that actually matter, unlike your cherry-picked statistics.

You fail to mention that according to the FBI approximately 80% of all those US gun deaths are gang-related shootings over drugs, not crimes against innocent citizens. You also fail to mention that while gun deaths are lower in GB, stabbing deaths are significantly higher. Unlike the US, where such crimes are rare, Great Britain tracks a separate category for knife crime because it is so common. During that same period, Just in England and Wales, over 38,000 knife crimes were reported. This puts their knife crime rate on par with our gun crime rate.

But most of all, failing to discuss the fact that all forms of violent crime have consistently dropped in the US, even in urban areas, as gun control has loosened, or to mention that all forms of violent crime in Great Britain have increased as gun controls have tightened, shows that your arguments are poorly thought out, if not intentionally disingenuous. That, combined with the fact that no reputable study has ever been able to show a statistical correlation between increases in gun control and decreases in violent crime, makes your opinion just one more worthless attempt to deny reality.

(Report Comment)
Francis Marion July 22, 2010 | 5:27 p.m.

Gun bans in urban areas? You throw that in rather casually toward the end of your essay, with no suppport or justification whatsoever. Taken in context with the rest of the article, it is a meaningless comment.

I will give your comment the respect it does not deserve, and counter with the question: Why do you dismiss the right to self defense simply because someone lives in an urban area? Are city dwellers second class citizens? Do criminals have more rights to prey upon the innocent in cities?

Thankfully, I live in a rural area. I own firearms, and carry a sidearm regularly. (No I am not a police officer, I am military, but that's not why I carry. Yes, there are parts of the US in which law abiding civilians carry exposed firearms as they go about their daily tasks)
There is little to no 'street crime' anywhere in my region (upstate NY). Several hours drive south of here, there are urban areas that are still quite dangerous, thanks in part to strict gun control laws.

Criminals do not obey gun control laws, because they do not obey laws. Your commment about gun bans in urban areas is representative of a mindset that is thankfully finding less and less support nationwide.
Best of all, your proposed 'solution' has been ruled in direct violation of teh US Constitution.
(Oh, and if you instincively feel the need to dismiss me as a redneck, consider the fact that I have a master's degree in education, am an accomplished filmmaker, a US Army soldier, have raised 3 honor students to High School age and arrived at Ground Zero at 6:00 pm on 9/11)

(Report Comment)
tom kelly July 22, 2010 | 5:44 p.m.

Who cares what the UK does? And, wasn't the right to bears arms first established---not for protection against criminals, but protection against any police state?

And to those who equate gun control with liberals---well......that could be your very last mistake.

(Report Comment)
Daniel Jordan Jordan July 22, 2010 | 6:45 p.m.

Virgil Sollozzo--didn't Michael Corleone take him out in the first Godfather movie?

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock July 22, 2010 | 7:00 p.m.

Mr. Sollozzo,

The point of my earlier post, which Rob Weir sums up nicely in an earlier response, was to simply ask readers to post under a real name and keep the discussion civil.

Mr. Sollozzo, the goal of the Missourian's opinion page is to spark community conversation, not community yelling matches or community flame wars. This is something we practice as a whole on this website. That's why all commenters are asked to follow this policy: http://www.columbiamissourian.com/p/miss...

In a nutshell, it says you need to register under a real name and keep the personal attacks and profanities out. Rebecca and every other columnist or letter writer of this news organization is expected to follow those rules -- I don't think it's too much to ask the public to do the same.

Additionally, whenever I take down a comment posted under a fake name, I email the user (assuming they left a valid email address for me to contact them at when they registered) to let them know about the policy and that I'd be happy to put their post back up if they'll use their real name.

For today, I only removed one comment that I felt was too much of a personal attack. All of the others were for username reasons (full disclosure: I wasn't the only person moderating the discussion here today; I can't say what other editors took down).

My sincere thanks to all of you who do follow the Missourian's comments policy and share your insightful viewpoints.

I hope that explanation addresses any concerns you may have about how we moderate comments here at ColumbiaMissourian.com.

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

PS -- To the reader going by Hugh, if you want to email at SherlockJ@missouri.edu, I'd be happy to address the questions you left in your comment.

(Report Comment)
Joan Peterson July 22, 2010 | 7:26 p.m.

I will be apparently the first to comment positively to this article. Thank you to Ms. Berg for her cogent and accurate comments. It is a fact that the U.S. has exponentially greater numbers of gun deaths per 100,000 than any other civilized country. Why? The U.S. also has exponentially greater numbers of guns- almost one per person. More guns have not made us safer. As long as 30,000 Americans die every year from a bullet due to a homicide, suicide, or accidental shooting, we have a huge public safety and health problem. Almost 100,000 total are killed or injured every year. This has taken a huge toll on families, communities and our health care and other social and legal system costs. In 2 years, more people die from a bullet in America than the total in the Viet Nam War. This is lunacy. The recent Heller and McDonald cases do not preclude sensible measures to resrict who can have guns, what kind of guns and where they may be carried. Both Justice Alito and Scalia specifically noted that in their majority opinions. In case anyone wants to continue to say that those who want reasonable gun control in this country are only interested in banning guns, they can stop saying it. That is now off the table due to the Supreme Court. We only want to ban gun violence. We have too many gun deaths and injuries. Guns do kill people- one killed my sister. It's time to act on sensible measures that even 69% of NRA members and 82% of gun owners agreed to in a recent Frank Luntz ( Republican pollster) poll. The NRA's leaders are extremists and simply do not represent their membership. They have gone too far and it's time to change that. Law abiding gun owners have nothing to fear and if they do, then maybe we should all be fearful of them.

(Report Comment)
tom kelly July 22, 2010 | 7:37 p.m.

.........and just for the record.

The UK's only means of capital punishment is beans and toast.
We don't need that here.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 22, 2010 | 9:31 p.m.

I wonder what Ms. Berg would think if I proposed that a little press control would be good for America?

(Report Comment)
Patrick Sweet July 22, 2010 | 10:23 p.m.

Just in case anybody missed it, Daniel Jordan Jordan is correct.

Michael Corleone shot Virgil Sollozzo in the forehead in "The Godfather." That would either make it a little difficult for him to comment on the website or a really cool name to have in real life.

- Patrick Sweet
(Also returning to the Missourian as an assistant city editor in the fall.)

(Report Comment)
Pete Jagermann July 22, 2010 | 11:06 p.m.

Do the math, British are 50 times more likely to be stabbed to death than Americans. Guns are inanimate objects and cannot possibly cause murders. Those intent on killing can do so without guns. In fact firearms are just legitimate tools that are used for self-defense far more than they are ever abused by murderers. It is estimated that Americans use firearms to self-defense 2 to 2.5 million times a year. So why are the British so fixed on "gun crime" and ignoring their insanely high violent crime rate? Probably because their violent crime is so much worse than the United States they are embarrassed to publish such statistics.

(Report Comment)
Virgil Sollozzo July 23, 2010 | 8:51 a.m.

No, I didn't come back from the dead.

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer July 23, 2010 | 9:48 a.m.

Good morning, everyone. We have disabled the account identified as Virgil Sollozzo and sent the author an email. If we can get verification of a real name, we'll be happy to restore his posting privileges. We usually delete all comments that seem to be made under fake names. In this case, so many of you in this discussion have responded directly to "Virgil Sollozzo" that we decided to leave them up and just prevent any further posts under that name while we wait to hear back.
— Joy Mayer, ColumbiaMissourian.com

(Report Comment)
Noah Hartsfield July 23, 2010 | 3:39 p.m.

To own a gun is a constitutional right. It is guaranteed by the 2nd amendment and has been affirmed my recent SCOTUS rulings. This is all true.

Personally, I'm fine with you wanting to own a gun. I don't own guns but I have families members that due. However, I want to know that you know what you are doing with said gun and using it in a responsible manner. Is that too much to ask?

In her article Ms. Berg does not advocate for complete gun control, she says conveniently in the first sentence of her second to last paragraph. This paragraph also then proceeds to discuss handguns, interestingly it doesn't seem like many people have paid attention to her first point in the paragraph, only the second.

Let us for a moment consider free speech, which is conveniently guaranteed in the 1st amendment (1 instead of 2, must be better right?) Are their limits and regulations on our right to free speech? Yes. I can not gather a group of people and stand downtown to demonstrate about anything I want (be that guns or that I think strawberry ice cream is the best dessert on the planet) whenever I want. I cannot exercise my right to free speech without limitation and regulation. In this example, I must get a permit from the city to demonstrate.

If we exercise regulations on the 1st amendment, why is it so bad to regulate the 2nd?

I don't think guns should be banned completely, but do we all need the ability to own military grade weaponry? Is it really an invasion of our rights to require gun permits and background checks before you can buy a gun? Should we not require gun sellers to practice some degree of discretion in who they sell their weapons too?

Maybe I am reading the posting wrong, but their seems to be a lot of discussion that there should not be any regulations on the 2nd amendment... does that mean we shouldn't regulate any of the others as well? Because we do. Which of our rights should be regulated, and which should not?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 23, 2010 | 4:16 p.m.

If you want to ask the city for permission to speak your mind, be my guest. The one protest I was part of in front of city hall didn't ask for permission and weren't hassled in the least. I'm betting they aren't on very solid legal ground with that particular ordinance. I suspect the various red light camera protests, the weekly Wednesday (I think) group at Broadway and Providence, and various groups at the Post Office likely get by without asking permission from the government to exercise their free speech as well.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush July 23, 2010 | 4:32 p.m.

Even the 2nd Amendment calls for a "well regulated militia." Here's the text: "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."

Nobody - but nobody talks about Constitutionally mandated regulations for devices that project lethal force through walls and down streets. Smart regulations is good policy.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 23, 2010 | 5:10 p.m.

Were Washington D.C.'s and Chicago's regulations infringing upon the rights of their citizens to keep and bear? If I recall correctly, Heller sued because Washington D.C.'s regulations prohibited keeping an assembled handgun in your own house. Seems like the Supreme Court said those regulations went too far.

(Report Comment)
tom kelly July 23, 2010 | 6:43 p.m.

"If we exercise regulations on the 1st amendment, why is it so bad to regulate the 2nd?"

Because other people think like this, including our Supreme Court. This logic is dangerous. It is dangerous to our Constitution. Our whole legal system uses precedence for decisions. If we regulate the 2nd, why not regulate the whole thing?
We are even losing our rights of privacy, and five years from now, a Supreme Court Justice will say, "Hey, in 2002? we ruled that it was necessary to tap American's phones and emails, why not put a GPS device in every driver's license?" They will build on EACH regulation until we have no rights.

I don't know the answer, but messing with the Constitution will destroy this country.

(Report Comment)
Janine Wonnacott July 24, 2010 | 1:30 a.m.

Gregg:

About that militia -

According to TITLE 10 > Subtitle A > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > § 311 of the US Code:

"The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard."

So should this militia be well-regulated (i.e. well-equipped) or disarmed? I think it's clear that they should be.

Janine

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush July 24, 2010 | 7:46 a.m.

Making well regulated = to well equipped is specious. But thanks for a least mentioning militias.

(Report Comment)
Janine Wonnacott July 24, 2010 | 10:29 a.m.

At the time the constitution was written, a "regulated" army meant one that was well-trained, disciplined, and well-equipped. The use is now archaic.

Further uses in the constitution of the word "regulated" to mean oversight by an authority explicitly mention the authority doing the overseeing. The absence of such an authority in the second amendment suggests that, here, "regulated" means well-trained, disciplined, and well-equipped.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush July 24, 2010 | 12:57 p.m.

Janine,
By far you are the most thoughtful commenter I've found regarding this issue.
Let's use your definitions - the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution could read, "Well-trained, disciplined, and well-equipped able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
I would love for the NRA, or others who live and breathe the 2nd Amendment, to push for some Constitutionally mandated good training and Constitutionally mandated discipline as a prerequisite to keeping and bearing arms. Alas, these Constitutional mandates seem to be ignored - or maybe I just don't live and breathe the issue as much as others. The training and discipline could even be down at the state or the county level.

Anyway, thanks for engaging.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking July 24, 2010 | 4:50 p.m.

Gregg, most legal firearm owners do the training and discipline themselves. They recognize the responsibility involved in owning and using firearms.

Most all of the gun crimes you read about in the news are committed by illegal owners. Most of them couldn't care less about safety or collateral damage. They're living some gang movie in real life. They have nothing to do with the vast majority of legal, careful, and responsible gun owners who do not want the actions of a few irresponsibles to restrict their choices.

DK

(Report Comment)
Stephen C. Derendinger July 24, 2010 | 7:51 p.m.

While I’m not surprised to see an opinion piece such as this come out of liberal Columbia the writer needs to do more research on the subject. The author for some reason wants to compare us to the United Kingdom (UK) for some reason and thinks we should emulate them but, we are a sovereign nation with our own laws and culture and what passes for accepted laws in the UK has nothing to do with us. The framers wanted the Federal government to have limited powers but they drafted the Bill of Rights to be binding on all State and Local governments as this was the basis for our nation to give all the citizens basic rights.

The framers of the Constitution were forward thinking when they included the 2nd Amendment by the way it is worded. They were of the opinion that all people that desired to could own arms to enable them to form a militia, if needed. The reason wasn’t for protection against England but all invaders foreign or domestic. If you read the Federalist papers you will find that the framers also felt that this amendment was for protection against our own government if needed. As Thomas Jefferson said “A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny!” This is the real reason for the 2nd Amendment and the defense of life and property comes from this and one of the reasons that I myself have arms. Our government, which includes Federal, State, and local, should be afraid of its citizens as they are the final authority and not the government.

The writer, I assume, also feels that if a city is allowed to make all guns illegal then that means that everyone, including the criminals, will turn in all their guns. If this were allowed to happen this would be one of the greatest benefits that could be given to the criminals as they would be the only ones with the guns as only the law abiding citizens would turns theirs in. Criminals would then be the only ones with guns. Just look at the crime rate in Chicago and Washington DC where guns were illegal and tell us that gun bans work there.

Another thing that I find interesting is the author is from a city where violent crime is increasing and in fact from what you see on the local news on a daily basis one should not be unarmed when living in or visiting Columbia. I myself will not go to Columbia without a handgun that is immediately accessible in my vehicle due to the violent crime that is prevalent there. I know of one person that was in a store parking lot, in broad daylight, where two men tried to steal his riding mower. When he confronted them they tried to attack him like they were the victims but he had a handgun and stopped the incident and called the police. The funny thing with this incident is he was questioned for over four hours, not for his use of the handgun but the fact that he called them a non political correct name.

(Report Comment)
Janine Wonnacott July 25, 2010 | 6:08 p.m.

Gregg -

I agree with Mark that gun owners are generally trained and educated in knowing how to use and care for the weapons they purchase and own. Many (most?) states that issue concealed carry permits also mandate training courses. To my knowledge, the NRA has no problem with states requiring training in order to carry a concealed weapon (bearing arms).

But the Constitutional definition of "militia" creates more problems that just the issue of training. 17-year-old boys, who are legally in the militia, cannot buy rifles until they are 18, and cannot buy handguns until they're 21. Felons and the mentally ill are not allowed to own weapons, but they are still members of the militia. And of course, disallowing women or the elderly from owning weapons would be politically unfeasible.

Limiting the 2nd Amendment to the legally defined militia would create more problems than it would solve, even though it seems like a tidy answer. (Treating firearms as we treat cars is also a solution that seems tidy but gets rapidly unpleasant, particularly to gun-control activists)

It's an interesting thought problem.

(Report Comment)
Noah Hartsfield July 26, 2010 | 11:00 a.m.

Since everyone seems to interested in historical accuracy and what the framers of our constitution intended, let's take a look at a few things. The law that defines the militia that Janine cites, was written and passed in 1956. Just a little while after the Constitution was written and passed. So let's look at a historical perspective of what the militia looked like during our framers time.

First.) The militia was all men. Women did not fight or defend the country unless they passed themselves off as men (which a few notable women did). They stayed home, tended the wounded, and made uniforms and the like.

Second.) The militia drilled on a regular basis. They did not just practice and educate individually. The town militia met on a regular basis to practice tactics and operating as a unit. Much like today's national guard. Furthermore, the militia units were often headed by elected officials because they were the leaders in the town.

This was the militia that the founding fathers knew, and many of them commanded. So if we are going to argue that the second amendment must be interpreted as they meant it too, then we have to understand not only their ideological perspective, but their historical one.

So, if we were to take gun ownership today as the founding fathers did:

No women would be allowed to own guns and all gun owners would gather on a regular basis and drill together. Working on tactics to defend the town/county/state/country as well as how to operate together. Lastly, they drills would be led by town leaders such as our city council, police chief, or local sheriff.

I'm pretty sure I've never seen the NRA propose any of that.

(Report Comment)
Mike Flintstone July 26, 2010 | 12:03 p.m.

This article just came out and pretty much sums it up --

http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/...

(Report Comment)
Janine Wonnacott July 26, 2010 | 5:37 p.m.

Noah -

The NRA would, of course, never propose making such a thing law, but many citizens act as the unorganized milita anyway.

Many gun owners train more than just target shooting. They train dynamic situations at specially built ranges. They set up car jacking scenarios, or home invasion scenarios, and plan, run, and revise.

Citizens are training themselves to be an active milita.

You say: "No women would be allowed to own guns and all gun owners would gather on a regular basis and drill together. Working on tactics to defend the town/county/state/country as well as how to operate together. Lastly, they drills would be led by town leaders such as our city council, police chief, or local sheriff."

I have seen that some citizens are doing this, only they do welcome women and they are not necessarily lead by a member of the government.

(Report Comment)
Noah Hartsfield July 27, 2010 | 11:19 a.m.

Janine,

That is exactly my point. There seems to be this argument that we have to consider the EXACT intentions of the founding fathers in regards to the 2nd amendment. We can not adapt or adjust if for modern times. If that argument is true, if we must only interpret the 2nd amendment as our framers knew it, then we must be true to ALL historical perspectives, including what the militia actually was.

Our founding fathers would not have been able to envision a would where the militia was mixed gender and that all of your practice was done at a sophisticated target range. They did not have the frame of reference. If we adapt our understanding of the 2nd amendment to adjust for these... why do we not adjust for other aspects of life and society?

We either strictly interpret the 2nd amendment... or we don't. I see a lot of people trying to have it both ways.

(Report Comment)
Rebecca Berg July 27, 2010 | 12:14 p.m.

Thank you to all who have taken the time to read and respond to my column. No matter your opinions, I appreciate your feedback and your engagement.

I would first like to respond to those who have mentioned the McDonald v. City of Chicago case ruled upon recently by the US Supreme Court, and which I mentioned in my column. I cited the case as an example of a ruling that I personally see being challenged in the future. In a democracy with a living Constitution, such constant interpretation and reinterpretation by the Supreme Court is vital to keeping our laws modern and effective.

Second, I must clarify for some commenters that I did not intend to portray the United Kingdom’s law enforcement system as flawless or Utopian. Certainly, the UK has its own problems with crime, and many of them. Even so, looking to other countries for ideas on how we might improve our own law enforcement and gun laws can only bring positive results.

Finally, I emphasize that the UK is but one example of a country we might think to emulate in some aspects of its law enforcement. I selected it as the focus of this column solely due to my own experience in the country this summer.

This column is not an exhaustive analysis of gun control and violent crime in the US as compares to the UK (and was not meant to be), but rather an introductory comparison intended to facilitate discussion and inspire further questions. I am glad to see it has done just that and hope it will continue to do so.

Rebecca

(Report Comment)

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