Gun violence has been haunting America for many decades. Many urban cities throughout the country face gun violence and unnecessary killings on a daily basis. In the early 1990’s Washington, DC, the nation’s capital was also known as the murder capital of the country. While homicides have decreased in Washington, DC, in other urban cities violent gun crime is statistically at an all- time high. And gun violence is now extending far beyond the urban cities to suburban shopping centers in Tucson, Arizona, movie theaters in Aurora, Colorado, small college towns and elementary schools in Newtown, Connecticut. And still, as a country, we are debating what, if any, measure should be taken to control or alter gun violence.
The National Rifle Association (“NRA”) has taken the country hostage to any change of gun laws citing the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms. We have a democratic government and not a dictatorship. In the area of guns, it feels as if the NRA is ruling us with a strong arm in the area of guns. No other group yields a measure of control in the area of our constitution, like the NRA and the 2nd amendment. Once the talk of some measure of gun control started being discussed, the NRA received 100,000 more members in the 18 days and a surge of gun sales occurred after the Newtown school killings.
There is no doubt that limits can be placed on the 2nd amendment as with other amendments. The first amendment protects free speech yet prohibits forms of speech such as libel and slander. The 5th amendment protects against depriving a person of life, liberty without due process of law but the Patriot Act allows detainees to be held indefinitely without due process or trial. The 8th amendment protects against cruel and unusual punishment but our courts uphold the death penalty—the most cruel and unusual punishment of all. The 15th amendment guaranteed the right to vote to African American men after slavery ended yet today many black men are permanently disenfranchised after serving prison terms. And conservative Republicans spent the last several years passing unnecessary voter ID laws which disenfranchised and denied many minorities the right to vote. Using the same rationale applied by the courts in some of these examples, there is legal support for limits on the right to bear arms.
Some gun owners seem to think that some politicians want to take away all guns forever; hence the increased gun purchases after the Sandy Hook Elementary school killings. The issue is not all guns but assault weapons, large magazines of 80-100 rounds of ammunition and gun checks for retail sales, gun shows and private gun sales. Limiting or restricting gun sales to anyone suspected or known to have a mental disorder would be a good thing too.
To quote from former President Bill Clinton in discussing the availability of high capacity gun magazines, this is “nutty”. And we live in a nutty and dangerous society. We need to stop some of the madness. While there are many key issues affecting our country from immigration, the economy, jobs, health, education, prison reform, guns must also be on the priority list. And a good start with gun legislation will be to ban assault weapons, high magazine capacity gun magazines and strict background checks for all gun purchases.
Washington, DC based 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, international and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, local NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV and XM Sirius radio. Her works have appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Washington Times, and NPR, among others. She also contributes articles to the Huffington Post and the Women’s Media Center. She is a native of Baltimore, MD.