By Perry Diaz
The deadly massacre that claimed the lives of 12 Americans and left 59 others wounded was one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history. The horrible – and despicable — act of suspected mass murderer James Eagan Holmes has made a lot of Americans wonder: What’s going on with our society?
Indeed, the United States of America — or simply “America,” as we fondly call the land of milk and honey – has gone wild and out of control. Too many Americans are dying unnecessarily and vainly in the bloody hands of people who have easy access to weapons of destruction, all under the constitutional guarantee of the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms.
Sad to say, the suspected gunman used his Second Amendment rights to gain ownership of the firearms – all purchased and licensed legally – that he used to spray bullets in a crowded theater in Aurora, Colorado during the premiere showing of the Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
According to police investigation, the suspected gunman had planned the attack with “calculation and deliberation” by spacing out the deliveries of ammunition and other ordnance in months to avoid any suspicion of what he was going to do. And before he went on the rampage, he rigged his apartment with “jars of liquid, explosives and chemicals that were booby trapped to kill whoever entered it.” Fortunately, the Aurora police were able to defuse the explosives and bombs without any incident.
But 71 victims were 71 human beings too many to sacrifice to satisfy those who live their lives using the rights given to them by the Second Amendment. And as always, the National Rifle Association (NRA) has a boilerplate defense of the Second Amendment regardless of the circumstance, to wit: “People kill, not guns.” NRA advocates consistently say that killings happen, with or without guns. True. But with guns – especially assault rifles – it is easier to kill, and could kill more than any other killing instrument available to man since Cain killed his brother, Abel.
Armed to the teeth
Indeed, it was so easy for Holmes to buy an AR-15 military style semi-automatic assault rifle, a 12-gauge Remington shotgun, and two .40-caliber Glock automatic handguns. It didn’t raise any suspicion when he purchased in the Internet 6,000 rounds of ammunition in two separate orders. He didn’t have any problem buying a military drum-style 100-round ammunition clip that he attached to the AR-15. And it only took him two minutes to kill or injure 71 innocent people and inflict emotional scars on the lives of hundreds of their relatives and friends. Yes, such was the speed for which a psychopath with easy access to deadly weapons could do.
But the nagging question is: For what purpose do Americans have the right to bear arms? This is the gist of the debate on gun control that has evaded serious consideration only because of the powerful pro-gun advocates and their allies in the U.S. Congress who are unbending in their stand against anyone who would challenge the sanctity of gun ownership.
The Second Amendment
On December 15, 1791, the Second Amendment — along with the rest of the Bill of Rights — was adopted and incorporated into the United States Constitution. It proclaims, “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.”
It is interesting to note that at that time the U.S. didn’t have a standing army to defend the young nation. In lieu of a professional army, the fledgling government of George Washington created a “well-regulated militia,” which consisted of every able-bodied man in the country, to defend the new republic.
One can then infer that the right to bear arms was a right granted to the integral components of a “well-regulated militia.” In other words, only those who were part of the “well-regulated militia” were given the right to bear arms. But now that the days of the “well-regulated militia” are over, does that mean that the Second Amendment is no longer in effect? One can argue, however, that the U.S. Armed Forces today has taken the place of the “well-regulated militia” or “citizen militia” of old.
And this was probably what led the U.S. Supreme Court to decide what the Second Amendment really means in its ruling on the U.S. v. Miller in 1939. In this case, the Court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms, but only if the arms in question were those that would be useful as part of a citizen militia. In effect, the Court merely translated the original language of the Second Amendment to keep up with the evolution of the “well-regulated militia” from the republic’s early days to the “citizen militia” of the 20th century, which are known today as the “national guard.”
But the pro-gun advocates interpret the Second Amendment differently, to wit: “The individual right to bear arms is a basic right just like the right to free speech.”
And this is where the Supreme Court is divided. Indeed, U.S. Supreme Court had never reached a consensus on the Second Amendment because of the disagreement among the justices on whether the Second Amendment was intended to protect the right to bear arms as an “individual right” or as a component of the “well-regulated militia,” “citizen militia” or “national guard.”
However, in 2008, the Supreme Court issued a decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller. The Court ruled: “The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm, unconnected to service in a militia and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” The decision seems like a Solomonic compromise that satisfied the pro-gun advocates and the proponents of gun-control. But was it enough to deal with the collateral issues surrounding the Second Amendment such as gun control?
Makes one wonder if the founding fathers thought that more than 200 years after the era of the militia men — who used single-firing muskets as weapons — the country would be flooded with all kinds of sophisticated weaponry, some of which could fire 500 rounds per minute? Had they anticipated that it would have come to this, would they have inserted a “rider” to the Second Amendment that would have mandated gun control to insure the safety of the citizens?
Perhaps the issue of gun control should be brought to the front burner of national debate. Americans can no longer seek sanctuary anywhere from the danger of too many guns in the wrong hands.
America is at risk of colossal decline and moral decadence if nothing were done to stop the proliferation of firearms in the country. Indeed, the bloody massacre in Aurora, Colorado is an eerie wake-up call.
I hope that in the aftermath of this dark episode, a shining dawn – splendorem aurora – would finally break in America.