The second amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. There are 27 amendments to the U.S. constitution. The first ten are known as the Bill of Rights. Proponents of the second amendment believe there should not be any restrictions on the right to bear arms. They believe the U.S. Constitution gives them an absolute right to bear arms. The only thing wrong with their thinking is there are restrictions and limits on most of the amendments to the Constitution.
The first amendment is freedom of speech. While freedom of speech is protected, there is not an unrestricted freedom to all speech. Libel and slander are not constitutionally protected. Other forms of speech are not protected. The first amendment also covers freedom of the press. Yet there are occasions where a journalist is asked by a court to reveal his or her sources or be held in contempt. That hardly seems like freedom of the press. The 4th amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizures. The Supreme Court has over the years narrowly defined the term “unreasonable.” Wiretaps and other forms of intrusion not considered at the time of the Bill of Rights are now deemed admissible. The eighth amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment. Yet, we still have the cruelest punishment of all—the death penalty.
The fifteenth and the nineteenth amendment guaranteed the right to vote to African American men and women respectively. Those amendments stated the right to vote shall not be denied on account of race or gender. In 2012, over half of the states passed laws which by statistics will disenfranchise blacks and in some cases, women who change their names. Many of the laws are being challenged in state and federal court.
Throughout our history, the freedoms accorded in the U.S. constitution through the amendments have never been absolute. Yet, somehow gun owners and proponents of the second amendment believe there should be an unrestricted use of the right to bear arms. If a gun is made, gun owners believe they are guaranteed and entitled under the constitution to buy it. And Tea Party Senator Ron Johnson says restricting who can purchase a gun including the mentally ill, will restrict the freedom of the second amendment. Somehow proponents of the second amendment fail to see or recognize that other amendments to the constitution, particularly the first, fourth and eighth have some limits.
Gun violence statistics, including accidents and homicides show the need for gun control. When we legally allow persons to buy weapons that are used to kill in war, something is wrong. Yet, second amendment proponents argue they need guns for protection. And to deny them guns will deny them protection. What was the Aurora killer protecting against?
I don’t have the answers or the solution. I think the gun proponents believe that the innocent lives taken in mass killings and other innocent taking of life are just the price for being able to have unrestricted right to guns by the second amendment. The price we pay is too high. At a minimum, guns like the one used to kill and injure over 70 persons in Aurora should be banned. But no one’s going to be brave enough to speak out against the NRA—at least not any politician.
Without grass roots organizations advocating for gun law change and politicians willing to risk their necks to propose gun law change, there will be no change. Sadly, I don’t think change will come until something so large for even the gun proponents to ignore occurs—perhaps not even then. Senator Dianne Feinstein, an outspoken gun control advocate says “There has been no action because there is no outrage out there, people haven’t rallied forward.” Feinstein was one of the original co-sponsors of the assault weapons ban that expired under Pres. Bush.
Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.