Mad About Guns

Only a strained interpretation of the 2nd Amendment can support widespread ownership of military weapons

There is an article in the Chicago Reader by Deanna Isaacs published July 12, titled, “What we talk about when we talk about guns,” that makes the point that gun violence is a redundant term. We don’t talk about bomb violence — bombs are inherently violent. So are guns. Violence is the purpose of guns. 

If one researches the history that reflects the origin or roots of our nation’s abominable descent into mass shootings — and murderous sprees against school children and other innocent victims — one will find that the gun industry was in a downward spiral as hunting and demand for sporting rifles had plummeted, as did profits. Into the breach stepped the powerful National Rifle Association, which methodically funded what is fairly described as pseudo-scholarship to re-invent the Second Amendment as conferring a personal right to possess firearms as opposed to a right tethered to a well regulated militia. 

That newly created narrative included the supposed purpose of arming citizens in order to enable them to rebel against the very constitutional government which the Founders were establishing with its checks and balances. This despite the Founders having defined treason as taking up arms against that very government.

But this glaring contradiction persisted and found a home within the halls of the Supreme Court, whose collective wisdom may have suffered from the influx of unreported gifts by billionaires to a number of justices weighing in on the question. It is not an exaggeration to describe the resulting decision as one implicating life or death for multitudes of the people who have been tragically impacted by the ruling.

The industry’s profits soared. The guns that were produced and marketed included versions of the most lethal semi-automatic weaponry developed for the military, designed to kill the most enemy combatants in the shortest period of time. 

We have gone from sporting rifles to military assault weaponry, from shooting animals to shooting people. We are, in short, hunting each other now as the quarry with ever more powerful guns. 

A final observation. Stand your ground laws and self-defense rationale as a basis for taking lives are being cited as some sort of 007 license to kill. The law regarding deadly force, however, is not as permissive. A trained law enforcement officer must have probable cause to believe a suspect is a threat to inflict deadly force or serious bodily injury on the officer or others before using deadly force in defense. Very few private gun owners have that training. One can’t shoot at someone just because the person is lost and knocks at the door or drives down the driveway, etc. This is why regulation, training and background checks are necessary. 

We don’t let people drive a car without passing the required tests. Modern guns are even more dangerous, yet many demand to possess an AR-15 and tote it around without restriction. No sane society would even hope to survive such madness.

Thomas Coffin is a retired United States magistrate judge. He served 24 years in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, from 1992 to 2016.

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