Rightfully so, citizens and politicians alike are taking time out to re-analyze our Second Amendment rights. The recent string of horrific shootings (Aurora, Sandy Hook, etc.) has prompted a national conversation concerning a debate that has had citizens on either side of the fence since its creation. It is important to acknowledge that the Second Amendment was created in a far different time than today – a time where a fledgling nation needed to quiet qualms of upheaval, insure protection against potential oppression, and equip paranoia in a ‘fighting fire with fire’ approach. Laws in the early days following the American Revolution were not as articulate nor as concrete then as they are now. Primitive ways of punishment for law-breaking abounded. Lacking a standard organized way of dealing with those who decided to turn criminal prompted vigilante justice. Possession of a gun was about as common as owning a set of kitchen cutlery.
Times may be more advanced, but guns are more prevalent now than ever. The right allowing every citizen to own a gun of their choosing should in theory level the playing field. But it does not and will never. Even with stricter gun laws large-capacity magazines, automatic and semi-automatic firearms would still be present illegally.
Many organizations, such as Mayors Against Illegal Guns and CeaseFire, have been calling for strengthening gun laws to include stronger background checks. Instead of restricting and limiting we should be considering amending and altering. We’re not dealing with misuse of weapons by law-abiding citizens so much as with mentally-ill individuals equipped with unbridled high-powered, rapid-fire instruments of death. A lot of people are talking about granting ownership to include only the sane and according heavy artillery to only military personnel and law enforcement. I think it should go a step further.
Recently, a woman named Wendy Button wrote to the New York Times appealing to have her Second Amendment rights relinquished due to her diminished capacity to control her decisions because of depression. She recounts the horror of a person attempting to break into her house; an event so terrifying she considered buying a gun. Then, she rethought her decision – would her mental illness inhibit her in such a way that she might use the gun for evil? Would she try to take her own life or the lives of others? I applaud her for her self-analysis, awareness, and civil responsibility. Most are not that intuitive.
“Responsible” gun-ownership should extend past the simple registration of a gun, passing a criminal background check, possessing a license to carry, and keeping the gun in a lockbox. If you want to keep a firearm in the house then EVERYONE in the house should have to submit to both a background criminal AND psychological check. When will we learn that all too often the one committing the heinous acts of mass shootings are not the gun owners themselves?
So yes. The laws need to be changed. They need to be stricter. They need to be less accommodating. But they cannot be expected to eradicate the illegal or legal prevalence of guns in our society. Instead, America needs to wake up, halt the political ticker-tape parade and recognize what’s really wrong here.
We need to stop overlooking and ignoring mental wellness in our society.