The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is an extraordinarily short article that remains a point of deep controversy. The version archived and treated as the document of record is the text passed in Congress, despite the fact that the version ratified by the states is slightly different. Recognizing that level of confusion, and over 225 years of cultural, judicial, legal, military, and technological change provides more than enough grounds for significant discussions on the role of the amendment in our society. This is not the place to tackle that debate; rather, this is the place to put forward an argument to create a constitutionally-appropriate path to real, common-sense gun policy.
Here is the text of the amendment as ratified by the states and authenticated by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of the free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
FIREARMS DO NOT MAKE US SAFE
Throughout our history, many have argued that we must own firearms to ensure our safety. This has been especially true for African Americans. In 1892, Ida B. Wells, a powerful advocate for the rights of Black Americans, wrote: “A Winchester rifle should have a place of honor in every black home, and it should be used for that protection which the law refuses to give. When the white man who is always the aggressor knows he runs as great a risk of biting the dust every time his Afro-American victim does, he will have greater respect for Afro-American life. The more the AfroAmerican yields and cringes and begs, the more he has to do so, the more he is insulted, outraged, and lynched.” Her outrage and her concerns were justified, but it did not stop the mass murder of Black Americans, at least 4,000 of whom were lynched in the South between 1877 and 1950.
The history of the harm caused by gun ownership in the U.S. is unambiguous. There is no evidence to support an argument that ownership of a firearm makes anyone safer. The random stories used to promote this narrative are the exceptions, not the norm. People who have ready access to a firearms are over twice as likely to be killed by a gun than someone without that access and over three times as likely to commit suicide. In 2005, Stuart Meyers, an operational tactics professional, published an editorial on a police industry website (policeone.com) in which he argued that police officers are accidentally shooting themselves and bystanders at an alarming rate. Two years later, on the same website, Richard Fairburn, a former section chief of a firearms training unit, wrote: “One for the dirty little secrets in the annals of police firearms training is the number of accidental discharges we experience.” The most well-trained handlers of firearms, the people who carry them every day of their professional lives, are accidentally firing their weapons on a regular basis. How can we argue that poorly trained, inexperienced gun owners walking amongst us will make us safer?
It is a simple statement of fact that a large number of guns in our society make us less safe and puts our lives at risk. Mass shootings are the incidents of violence that get the most media attention. There were 343 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2017. This year, we have already suffered 34 mass shootings. The math on this is simple. Barely a single day goes by in the U.S. without a mass shooting taking place. But it is not just the mass shootings that we need to address. Almost 170,000 people died from a gunshot wound in the U.S. between 2011 and 2015. Many of these killings reveal the inequalities that plague our society. Black men are thirteen times more likely than white men to be killed with a firearm, while fifty women die by gunfire at the hands of an intimate partner each month. And every day, seven children under the age of nineteen die from gunshot wounds. One of the most serious issues we must address is the role of firearms in suicide, as almost two-thirds of all firearm deaths are identified as suicide.
We are long overdue for a sensible gun control policy in this country that recognizes the constitutional rights of every American, as well as our safety and security. As your representative in Washington, D.C., I will be a vocal proponent for a common-sense gun policy.
- I will co-sponsor a revised version of the Assault Weapons Ban. The 1994 version, which expired in 2004, survived several legal challenges, so we know it is constitutional.
- This bill will not place restrictions on firearms used by the police or the military.
- This bill will not ban or restrict ownership of firearms purchased before its passage.
- This bill will not ban or restrict the manufacture or possession of shotguns that do not accept external magazines and hold fewer than five rounds, rifles or handguns that do not accept external magazines and hold fewer than 10 rounds, or those shotguns, rifles, or handguns with a manually operated action.
- This bill does not address cosmetic elements such as pistol grips or styles of stocks that do not alter the action of the firearm.
- This bill will prohibit the production or use of large capacity magazines.
- This bill will prohibit the production or use of high capacity (10 rounds for rifles and handguns, 5 rounds for shotguns) semi-automatic firearms or firearms that accept an external magazine and possess any one of the following attributes: bayonet mount, rocket or grenade launcher, shroud guard, flash suppressor, or a threaded barrel.
- This bill will prohibit the production or use of any accessory that is intended to increase the rate of fire of a firearm, such as, but not limited to bump and slide-fire stocks.
- I will introduce or co-sponsor legislation to improve and expand the National Instant Criminal Background Check.
- The NICBCS must require all law enforcement bodies to report all charges of violent crime, domestic violence, and stalking, all mental health care professionals to report any concerns of the potential for violent action, including suicide, and all schools to report concerns of violent behavior, including suicide.
- To support this every individual who would like to own a firearm must register to do so. That registration will include an annual renewal based on a review if the NICBS data and successful completion every three years of a firearm safety and responsibility course provided by Federally certified instructors.
- No firearm will be allowed to change hands without the holder of a Federal Firearms License using the NICBS to complete a background check of the potential recipient of the firearm and reviewing that individual’s registration status.
- I will support all efforts to preserve gun-free zones, to enable the Centers for Disease Control andPrevention to study gun violence and deaths, and I will oppose concealed-carry reciprocity.
- I will work to end the corrupting power of big-money donors and special interests in our government. The National Rifle Association, which receives roughly 74% of its funding from the firearms and affiliated industries, is undermining our ability to create a sensible gun policy that will protect the lives of our children. Until we eliminate the ability of the NRA and other pro-firearms lobbies to bribe and bully our legislators, we will not see real change.
We can protect our constitutional rights and our safety at the same time, but we have to restore our democracy in the process.