"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."
That is the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution, as passed by Congress in late 1791.
It was a different time back then. I don't think anyone can argue with that. But that's about all we, as a country, can agree on when it comes to this 27 word sentence.
On Monday, there was another tragic shooting; this one in College Station, Texas. There were 2 people killed and several injured by a disgruntled home owner, as a city constable attempted to serve an eviction notice.
In our world of violence, it would be easy to pass this tragedy off and say, "well, it was only two people….this time." But to those two persons' friends and families, this is the worst news story they have ever heard.
Just a little over a week ago, a man went to a Sikh Temple during Sunday morning worship and opened fire, killing 6 people.
And less than a month ago, a man went into a dark movie theater and killed 12 people.
Of course, in each of these instances, there were people injured, as well.
When does this violence end?
The Governor's Rationale
After the College Station shooting, I read a long, rambling quote from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, in which stated his argument for people's right to own and carry guns. Here is part of that quote,
"And Texas I will suggest to you by and large a majority of them, a large majority of them believe that law abiding men and women should be able to have their weapons and the criminals are never going to listen to the law, they're always gonna have weapons, whatever source they want, whether they're legal or illegal. And I think it's wise for the people of the state of Texas to be able to defend themselves when there is a law breaker that comes into their midst with a weapon."
I'll concede Perry two points: 1) He's probably right that most Texans feel this way; and 2) criminals are always going to find a way to get a weapon, and they don't care what the laws say.
But I think his reasoning is flawed.
Law Abiding Mass Murderers
If you think back over the years of all the terrible, senseless shootings in our country, you will find that most of these ruthless, selfish murderers had obtained their guns and ammunitions lawfully and were not breaking any laws by owning guns as they, themselves, were not lawbreakers until the very day they took multiple lives during their respective rampages.
The shootings are not committed by gang members, assassins, petty crooks or hardened criminals. Most often, these people are quite intelligent, but delusional or mentally unstable and fueled by hate for certain groups of people. Often these types of people are dismissed as quiet loners or quirky characters, but no one would ever have expected this person to do what he eventually does.
These types know how to go about obtaining guns and ammunitions legally; they plot and plan and wait and stock up. They are people who are protected by the 2nd Amendment as it is interpreted today.
A Militia State?
Secondly, I'd like to point out that in none of these instances that I am aware of was the assailant shot by a regular Joe who just happened along upon a murderous scene and who happened to be packing heat, taking advantage of his 2nd Amend. right, as the good governor from Texas would argue might happen if we are allowed to possess and carry guns.
Along that same line, I'm a bit confused by Perry's statement: "And I think it's wise for the people of the state of Texas to be able to defend themselves when there is a law breaker that comes into their midst with a weapon."
Is Perry suggesting that Texas is a militia state? A state where a body of citizens is armed and trained by the state that can take law enforcement into its own hands? Surely not.
Stand Your Ground
Of course things didn't quite work out this way for George Zimmerman of FL when he lawfully owned and carried a gun for protection in a neighborhood that had been repeatedly struck by thieves and home invasions. Zimmerman acted as Captain of the Neighborhood Watch and claims he acted in self defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law the night he shot and killed an unarmed young man. And yet, he is now standing trial for his actions.
Stand Your Ground laws do indeed protect those who "use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first." Under these laws, a person could even use deadly force without a duty to retreat, in some cases; and in those cases, these laws would be considered a defense or immunity against criminal charges or civil suits.
However, clearly sometimes a person might make a mistake about when he could legally use his gun and when he is breaking the law himself.
My point is that do we really want people carrying guns everywhere they go and making a split second decision whether what they think they are seeing is really what's going on? I think not, but I know this sentiment is not agreed upon across the board.
The problem is all in the way it was written and passed out to the states and eventually ratified by those states. It's only slightly different than the original version passed by Congress; but the difference is enough to make interpretation a bit dicey.
Here is the way the states' version is written and was subsequently ratified as:
"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."
Do you see the difference? It may appear subtle, but it makes a big difference. In fact, it's why there is such a debate over exactly what the right was intended to protect. If only there had been copying machines in 1791.
And lastly, when the 2nd Amendment was written and passed, guns that could fire off hundreds of explosive rounds in a matter of minutes couldn't even be imagined, much less a machine that would make exact duplications of a piece of legislation. Over and out…