With yet another prominent American shooting in such a short space of time, the American public and media seem to have become bored with the Gun Control debate. The outrage lasted for a few days the first time, slightly less the second time, and seemingly only a matter of minutes these last two times. Why? Because those with the power to do something believe nothing can be done, and the public have become exasperated. The Gun lobby is too powerful. The legislation and precedent are written in stone. The powers are too separated. And neither Obama or Romney, nor any of the ordinary congressmen and senators, stand a chance in hell of being elected if they do anything about it. But is this true? Is there really no hope? Well, I believe that something can be done. The first step toward better Gun Laws is the realisation that American Gun Laws are based on subjective interpretation.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, the source of America’s Gun “Rights” and legislation, 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.” Well, let’s overlook the references to “regulation” and “militia” for a moment, and concentrate on the term arms. Now, note, the second amendment does not say “the right of the people to keep and bear machine guns….”, “the right of the people to keep and bear tanks…”, or “the right of the people to keep and bear cap-pistols…” No. It specifically says arms. Well, what are arms? Are arms only guns? Or is it a loose word?
Here lies the conundrum in American Gun Laws. How do we define arms? Well, in modern parlance we often refer to Nuclear Weapons as Nuclear Arms. Rockets are arms, missiles are arms, and weaponized helicopters, tanks, and bombs are all arms. But American civilians are not permitted to carry or utilise nuclear weapons, rockets, missiles, weaponized helicopters, tanks or bombs. Why? Because of the selective interpretation of the word arms. Through legislation and court rulings, the American people have decided that the word arms refers only to guns and not to weapons of mass destruction or weapons in general. They have made a specific, limited and warranted interpretation. So, why not go a step further?
Surely, if the whole point of arming the population is protection from a tyrannical government or to bolster the ranks of the military, then the people should be furnished, trained and in control of as advanced weaponry as possible? No. The American people have realised that some weaponry is just too lethal to trust in the hands of ordinary people. As part of the social contract, the people have given up their right for offensive violence, so the right to offensive weaponry has been surrendered. But obviously not all of the offensive weaponry has been surrendered and eliminated. As the Aurora shooting has shown, even somewhat “ordinary” weapons can be turned into extraordinary killing machines when furnished with the right accessories. The current interpretation of the word arms still leaves room for the problems that the American people sought to remove by prohibiting more lethal weapons. However, there is room for improvement here. Since this is all based on subjective interpretation, it is malleable. It can be changed. There is room for improvement.
The Second Amendment is not specific in what constitutes “fair” arms, so the American people have done it for the framers. They have decided that extraordinarily powerful weapons are not fair game. If Americans want to achieve gun laws that are a little bit saner, they must work towards tightening up this interpretation of what constitutes “fair” arms. The outsized magazines used in Aurora should be left out. “Cop Killer” bullets and assault rifles should be left out. Rapid-fire weapons should be left out. The ability to purchase large quantities of ammunition should be left out. The ability to purchase heavy body armour should be left out. This can all be done without taking away the right to guns entirely. All it needs is a change in interpretation of what constitutes arms.. It is already selective. It should be even more selective. No longer should the term arms apply to all guns. When the debate is moved from the impossible plane of “Gun rights” or “No Gun Rights”, on to the plane of the interpretation of Gun Rights through the interpretation of the word arms, then sanity stands a chance.
Originally posted @ Sakalabujan Magazine