I don’t believe that gun control violates the 2nd Amendment

I’m about to speak about something that you probably never expected to read on this space: gun control. Warning: things are about to get political. I try to keep it light and whimsical here on Rhyme & Ribbons despite being deeply political in my personal life because this space is my place to escape and focus on the positive. 

I had originally scheduled this post to be published earlier today, but due to the Democratic filibuster, I delayed my post.  I was flooded with respect and gratitude toward Senator Murphy and the others that led the floor for nearly 15 hours yesterday and in the early hours of this morning.  I was moved to tears this morning. It’s the first time in awhile that I’ve felt a rush of patriotism. It’s also been a long time since I’ve felt passion and pride in our Congress. 

I may live in England now, but I’m American. I love my country and I love our constitution. Which is why I have to speak up. This week, I can’t be silent. As an American, I feel sick. Physically sick at the state of the country. I could never begin to comprehend the anguish of those who lost loved ones this weekend, or the impact that it’s had on the community. So I’m not going to try to extend my understanding and sympathy because though their deaths leave their mark on my heart, there’s no way that my extension of sympathy can even touch the hurt caused by a gunman’s actions to the victims families. 

Besides Orlando, there were multiple other shootings this weekend, including the murder of 5 people in New Mexico (my home state), and 4 of those 5 New Mexicans were children. It’s constantly being asked, when are we going to say enough is enough? In an ideal world, appealing to people’s hearts would be enough, that I wouldn’t even need to have the following discussion. But we don’t live in an ideal world. So let’s hash out some constitutional law. 

If you are not speaking out for gun control, you are part of the problem. If that means throwing family and friends under the bus for their strong belief in the sanctity of the 2nd Amendment, so be it. I love you, but I firmly believe you’re wrong.

I believe you’re wrong because you are extrapolating something from the 2nd Amendment that isn’t strictly there. The 2nd Amendment only guarantees gun rights in some interpretations. Let’s look at the wording of it, “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 key part of the preamble that people tend to brush aside is the “well regulated Militia” bit, and it’s extremely important. So important that it’s been subjected to over a century’s worth of scrutiny. 

This is where the Supreme Court has come in, and this is where I feel that a modern court has failed us. Though many Americans seem to hold the sanctity of owning a gun right up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, it’s only in recent memory that the court has ruled this way. The first time the court ruled that the 2nd Amendment protects the rights of gun ownership with little to no control was in 2008. In fact, every other time that it came up to the court prior to 2008 (District of Columbia v Heller) the decision and interpretation was that the amendment does not guarantee unrestricted gun freedoms; in 1934 the NRA themselves testified for gun restrictions.

But with the power increase of pro-gun lobbies, public sentiment has been manipulated, coerced and twisted until we all believe that the founding fathers put gun ownership right up there with voting. And of course, this public sentiment influences Supreme Court decisions, which is entirely legal because some of the Court believe the US Constitution to be a “living” constitution, open to adapting to internal and external pressures and changing over time. (This, of course, plays a key part in the debate between Originalist vs Loose Constructivism, but that’s a very complicated debate. And not be honest, not one that I think most gun proponents in America think about.)

Historically, all terms in the Constitution must have some kind of effect, so the preamble to the 2nd Amendment (the “militia” part) is no exception. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall stated in Marbury v Madison 1803 (the landmark case that established judicial review in this country) “it cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect” So why are we so willing to ignore what Madison most likely meant with their well-regulated militia? As far as I see it, there is no mention of an individual’s right to own a gun for individual self-defence or recreation…

In most other documents from the era, “bearing arms” was a very specific term only used in a military context, and if the 2nd Amendment was solely about gun rights, there’d be a much easier way to word it. 
I will concede, that this is my (and many others) interpretation to believe that gun rights without limits are not protects. But portraying it as a gospel truth is also one interpretation, that is not only potentially wrong, but highly dangerous. There are many shades of grey in the US legal system and no clear-cut, inarguable basis for opposing gun restrictions. 

Can you pick holes in my logic? Of course. And I can in the pro-gun lobbyist’s. But it’s that ambiguity that highlights the fact that it isn’t a right specifically spelled out to us. I’ll say it again. It’s an interpretation. Let’s all say that again, the right to own a gun is an interpretation not a solid fact. 

It’s naive to think that we can suddenly take all guns out of America, but it should, without question, be harder to get a gun than it is to vote or open a bank account. In the months after 9/11, my 5 year old niece had a pair of safety scissors confiscated from her backpack at the airport because security recognised the danger for abuse. No one argues with TSA when they confiscate our razors, scissors and lotions. No one argues that the things we take on a flight are a protected right as our “property’. So we are we now willingly turning a blind eye to actual implements of death? We have all become the bystander that is watching a crime.

Even if you don’t own a gun yourself, but automatically assume it is a spelled out protected right, you are contributing to systematic and silent approval of violence in our country. Since Sandy Hook there have been nearly 1000 mass shootings. And Sandy Hook wasn’t decades ago. It was in 2012. Let’s just let that number sink in for a second.  The Constitutional high ground is important, but let’s be honest, the rights of gun ownership are more about the court of public opinion than the law of the land. The question I want all Americans to ask themselves is this; is your interpretation the Constitution so important that it’s worth sacrificing innocent lives and public safety? 

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  • This is one of the most well thought out, well written articles regarding this. I get really mad when people are like, “constitution says!” well, when in history have things not had to change to reflect changing times? When it’s more difficult to buy cold pills and canned air then it is to purchase fire arms, something needs to be re-evalutated.

    • Yes, Danielle, yes! The reason we added amendments in the first place was because there were things wrong in our laws. Why not amend an amendment?

  • Miu

    A very interesting article. As non-American I won’t comment on the issue itself, but you were the first article to mention the whole sentence. I head no idea the wording is “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

    • I think a lot of Americans don’t even know the entire amendment; I think it’s something that does, unfortunately, tend to get glossed over. x

  • This is so important. I just recently wrote about gun control on my blog as well. I think it’s so important for us bloggers to use our voices to make a difference. Thank you for writing this!

    Emma | Seeking the South

  • While I try to stay out of political things, I think this was well done. I think that they should make it way harder to obtain a gun than it is, it’s ridiculous that people can’t even open a bank account because they don’t have any photo id, but can get a gun? What? That just seems backwards!

    • Exactly! Even though I would never own a gun personally, it would be hard to argue to ban guns in America. All I’m arguing for is to make it slightly harder to get one… the ease of access is mind-blowing… x

  • Good for you! I also try to stay out of all things political on my blog but privately am extremely outspoken ha ha! This was well written and 100% true! Totally agreed with every word.

    • Thanks Holly! I knew I was going to put some readers off because it’s not usually blog fare round these parts but I thought it was too important to stay quiet about on this space. xx

  • Very eloquent article.

  • Agree so hard, and love you for posting about it. I tend to write about socio-cultural stuff rather than politics because politics can just make me so damn angry. Safety shouldn’t be questioned. I felt the same way about the filibuster – I was kind of expecting another round of zero progress after a shooting and it was just so uplifting to see senators fighting back.

    • Agreed. But now it’s depressing to hear that the vote failed on Monday. But hopefully this is a sign that some senators will keep fighting! x

  • AMEN! I agree with you whole-heartedly! And, it is so hard, because I am definitely anti-gun, but I live in hunting, uber-red conservative Utah (and yes, I am a Mormon and agree with most of their political views) and now I’m going to be moving to Texas…and I’m quite liberal! …My husband joked that I will have to learn to deal with ultra-conservative gun-wielding Texans and be nice to them…haha.

    • Ha, you’ll definitely have to walk on egg shells over gun rights… I’m very anti-gun and honestly think there’s no real reason to actually have one, but but not going to argue taking away someone else’s rights. I just think that there SHOULD be regulation on the type of guns that you can by, background checks, conceal carry permits, etcs. I do not buy the argument that having rules in place that makes guns slightly harder to get infringes on 2nd Amendment rights. x