Gun control laws, Second Amendment examined

After every shooting, the debate over guns escalates to a feverish pitch.

Many on the left say that easy access to guns is what drives shootings and violence. Many on the right argue that shootings can be prevented by more people having guns and that any attempt to control guns is an infringement on the Second Amendment.

Both sides are guilty of using a simple idea to solve a complex problem. The gun control debate is often a distraction from determining the real cause of shootings, and only divides the American people more than bringing them together to solve the problem.

Most people think the Second Amendment is the right to bear arms.

“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” is what the Second Amendment actually says.

The Second Amendment was not considered a controversial issue for a greater part of American history. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the majority opinion of Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court ruled that the first clause of the amendment does not apply anymore and that regulation using the militia clause will not hold up in the future.

Looking at the case, the majority opinion written by Scalia engaged in judicial activism as it struck down a long standing firearms law. Many of the Republican presidential candidates decried that same sort of judicial activism after gay marriage was legalized.

Along with a misunderstanding of what the amendment actually says, the misunderstanding of gun control contributes to the divisive nature of the argument.

The media and many politicians construe it as either citizens can own any kind of arms, or they cannot have any kinds of arms. Gun control is actually a spectrum with some arms universally considered to be banned and others considered more acceptable.

Across the political spectrum, it is agreed that citizens shouldn’t have nukes. Guns used for sport have some regulation but are purchasable at your local Wal-Mart. The point is, there are weapons that are banned or controlled and the gun control argument presented by the media and opportunist politicians is a false reality.

President Obama is not going to bust down your door and take your hunting rifle, nor is your neighbor going to have a machine gun posted in the tree. The media and the politicians make us believe this is the reality of gun control.

Instead of engaging in arguments over gun control, policy makers should be focused on tackling the issues that propel people to commit mass shootings.

Today, Americans are under many stresses. We have stagnant wages that cut off the possibility to live better than our parents. Many college students graduate with massive student loans and a low-wage job that puts them under financial strain and stress.

Roughly one in two marriages in America ends in divorce, putting financial and emotional strains on both parents and children. Social media puts considerable pressures on people to base their value on the number of likes, followers and friends they have. Students of all ages face the stress of standardized tests like the ACT, LSAT, GRE, CORE40 and others. They believe that if they don’t get the top score, they’ll be failures.

To many, the American Dream that they grew up idealizing is dead and they feel disillusioned by that epiphany.

While many people can deal with these stresses, there are a number of people who can’t and they mentally implode.

Some of these people are guided to mental treatment and they recover and become healthy. Others deal by engaging in sensual behaviors like sex, drug use and heavy drinking. There are a few that take matters into their own hands and commit rampage-suicides in schools and offices throughout the country.

Still, politicians focus on controlling the tools of destruction instead of the motives. Some say that it is a psychological problem that politics has influence over. I say they are wrong.

They are problems that affect everyone in society and they can be tackled like other societal problems. The first step is to advance mental health care in this country and try to mitigate the stigmas associated with mental health. Getting the necessary care in time can change a person’s life and prevent further self-destruction.

The government’s economic policy should focus on building an economy that can bring higher wages and opportunities to families, college graduates and students that do not do well on standardized tests. The goal of policymakers should not be to create a storm of vicious debate, but instead recreate the unity that has gotten the United States through other troubles.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Hunter Balczo at torchnews@valpo.edu.


The tragic shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon has reignited a lively  partisan debate on gun control. Paying lip service to victims’ family and friends, politicians from county sheriffs to the President himself have already begun the distasteful use of this senseless act to prop up tired rhetorical points in an attempt to spur immediate action on gun control.

The key point here is not the weapon used, nor is it the violence itself, but the senselessness of such brutal and calculated murder. In a fit of incredulous disbelief, pro-gun and anti-firearm activists seemingly suggest to the remainder of the public that emotionally-charged and expedited reform will solve an issue neither side can agree upon, ultimately and illogically ending senselessness with more senselessness.

First, my thoughts on the key arguments of the left. Following the horror in Oregon, Democratic mainstay and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton proposed four distinct policies, which supposedly address gun violence, the most alarming of which was “administrative action” on gun sales.

Interesting, considering President Obama, purportedly anti-gun and no stranger to executive order, recently admitted he had exhausted all available tools when it comes to stricter gun control laws. Chalk that up to one more empty campaign promise from Mrs. Clinton.

Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley recently released a similar four-point plan on gun control, which calls for universal registration and fingerprint databasing for owners, among other measures. The first problem with fingerprint registration is ease of implementation.

This action would increase the size of government bureaucracy, probably by increasing the scope of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The maintenance of the system would put further strain on thin DHS funds, not to mention require all firms selling firearms to pay for the system and its upkeep.

All this said, the real problem with O’Malley’s suggestion is the existence of the database itself. After the ruckus raised over mass data collection by the NSA earlier this year, the mere proposition of another nationwide registry is not only absurd, but blatantly against the will of the people and a decisive step toward national reclamation, as in Australia or the UK.

The far right’s pro-gun position, as explained by persons of the Clinton-O’Malley persuasion, puts the second amendment above protection of citizens.

This is a misguided perception. The amendment reads, “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.”

High profile politicians, like Rand Paul, and lesser-known conservatives, like former congressional candidate and Breitbart editor Mike Flynn, emphasize “shall not be infringed,” perhaps to the detriment of the wider argument about protection of the individual.

In the recent special election for Illinois’ 18th congressional district, representative-elect Darin LaHood and Flynn had similar stances, but where LaHood made exceptions for mental illness and convicted felons (laws already on the books), Flynn simply pounded the table and repeated the last four words of the amendment.

This dynamic is repeated time and time again within the Republican Party, with little result. When read as a whole, the text of the second amendment suggests the right to bear arms is directly related to the safety of a State.

With this in mind, LaHood’s provisions appear not only better for the people of Illinois and the United States, but more constitutional, as well.

Recently, pundits and politicians have begun the excruciatingly painful routine of diagnosing perpetrators of violence with whichever social or psychological disorder is necessary to justify their stance on issues ranging from prison reform to gun control, with little respect for the fact that none of them, save perhaps Dr. Carson, have the authority to do so.

In the last GOP debate, Governor Huckabee snarked, “I thought everybody here passed ninth grade civics,” but my question is if anyone in government passed sixth grade science. In my extensive tenure as a public school student, it was made abundantly clear to me that before the effect of one variable could be found, all others needed to be held constant.

Rather than call for nationwide open carry or blanket bans on handguns and “assault weapons,” the United States would benefit from an honest review and implementation of current constitutional provisions and firearms law. Let’s implement those laws neglected and misapplied and repeal those most inefficient and unconstitutional, and add new regulations and rules as needed.

This will not be a quick process, but it is the right one. In a world where senseless violence is a reality, there is no need to add senseless (albeit sensational) new laws to the mess.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Jacob Schlosser at torchnews@valpo.edu.

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