On December 14, 2012, the United States was left stunned and in disbelief after twenty-year old gunman Adam Lanza stormed into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and murdered twenty-six people, including twenty children. On
his person during the shooting, Lanza reportedly had a semi-automatic Bushmaster .223 rifle (with “many high-capacity clips”), along with a couple of handguns. Before this awful event, there had already been fifteen other mass shootings– defined as “multi-victim shootings where those killed were chosen indiscriminately”- in the U.S. in 2012, including the deadly shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Oak Creek, Wisconsin. It has become obvious that the ease with which average citizens can obtain military-grade assault weapons is a serious threat to our daily security, and tolerating these frequent tragedies in the name of the second amendment is unacceptable moving forward.
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states: “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.” The very first words are “well regulated” and “militia.” Too many people in this country use the Second Amendment to justify the lack of necessary regulation of the gun industry without considering the amendment’s purpose: to enable a young nation to defend itself from attacks by foreign states by arming the citizenry. We must consider “militia” and “being necessary for the security of a free state” when referencing the Second Amendment. It is hard to argue that the framers intended for people like Adam Lanza and James Holmes to legally carry such vicious weapons. People interpret the Second Amendment as giving citizens the right to bear arms, but over the years, we have expanded this interpretation and allowed gun owners to
take liberties with this right, which includes permitting them to own all types of firearms, such as the AR-15 assault rifle James Holmes used to kill twelve innocent people in Colorado, or the .223 Bushmaster Adam Lanza used this past weekend in Connecticut.
It is unfathomable to think that it is easier to get a license to purchase a gun than it is to get a license to drive a car in the United States. If we’re going to continue being a country that permits gun ownership, the first step should be to implement new checks on the ability to own a gun. As an example, citizens should not only have to pass a simple background check to own a gun, but they should also have to take a training course in how to properly handle the weapon, and be certified by a mental health professional, in order to acquire a gun.
It is time to differentiate between which guns should be permitted and which need to be outlawed. As a society, we need to acknowledge that there is a difference between legally owning a hunting rifle or owning a small handgun for self or property defense, and owning a military-grade assault weapon. There is no reason an average civilian needs to have armor-piercing bullets (which are ). The only reason a person needs armor piercing bullets is to kill a soldier or a police officer. These weapons should only be in the hands of our military and law enforcement personnel, not the public. The broad view of the Second Amendment that allows ownership of military-grade weapons and ammunition should be tightened to protect innocent Americans.
So what can we, as a society, do to ensure that our citizens are safe and that these tragedies stop occurring? First, we need to implement some level of gun control. Assault weapons and armor piercing bullets should be banned for all non-military and non-law enforcement personnel. Hunting rifles and small arms should be legislated by each state, considering hunting is a legitimate purpose for owning a gun, and some states clearly see more hunting than others. Second, we need to focus on education and give people an opportunity to improve their own lives. If we can get more people off the streets and in schools, we can decrease the level of violent crime in society. This also pertains to the diagnosis and treatment of mentally ill individuals. While education can help decrease shootings aimed at a particular race or group of people, mental health treatment can also help decrease random shootings, and make us all safer in the long-run.
We need our federal government to lead us in the right direction and do something about this senseless violence that has permeated our society. It is not a coincidence that European countries see much less gun violence than we see in the United States. There is seemingly a direct correlation between gun control laws and firearm homicides. Preventing mass
killings has become a national problem that requires national solutions on all levels of society: education, mental health treatment, counterterrorism, and, yes, gun control. While all of these areas demand attention, I believe an assault weapons ban and increased gun control is the first and most obvious solution to undertake in order to stop these heinous crimes and protect our nation from this threat.