- A Well Regulated Militia
What were people thinking 222 years ago in 1791 when the Second Amendment was added to our Bill of Rights? “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.”
In 1791 there were only 900 active military personnel protecting our country. Realizing that our country was vulnerable to foreign invasion, “The Militia Act of 1792” paired with the 2nd Amendment, enabled the government to call upon citizens to help defend our country from both foreign and domestic enemies. George Washington actually had to utilize this as early as 1794 when 13,000 militia were assembled from 4 states and were used to quell 500 armed citizens not willing to pay their taxes during the Whiskey Rebellion.
Some scholars actually believe that the 2nd Amendment was added to the Bill of Rights to appease southern states in order to get their ratification in 1791. Law professor Carl T. Bogus reportedly found in James Madison’s writings, information to support the theory that the 2nd Amendment, “remained the principal way of preserving white control over an enormous black population.” This then provided a way to maintain slave patrol militias protecting citizens from slave revolts or insurrections.
Regardless of what you believe, things have thankfully changed since 1791. Today the active and reserve military protecting us includes approximately 2.5 million people. Our local, state, and federal law enforcement officers protecting us are almost one million strong. The Iowa Army National Guard maintains 56 armories in 53 different Iowa communities. The amount our country spends on our military exceeds the amount of the next 13 largest military spending countries combined. But unbelievably, there are still more than 300 million privately owned guns in this country.
The cold facts are that there are now consistently over 32,000 gun related deaths and 200,000 gun injuries in the U.S. each year. Regardless of whether they are classified as homicides, suicides or accidents, the amount of deaths has steadily increased since 2003 with 32,163 gun related deaths in 2011. In just the last two years in the U.S. there have been more gun related deaths and injuries than all the military personnel killed or wounded during our 15 year involvement in the Vietnam War and around 10 times the amount of both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars combined. Studies by Bloomberg show that the deaths by guns will probably surpass traffic fatalities by 2015. Because of extensive car and driver regulations it gets safer to drive cars--7 times more safe than in 1952.
Despite these horrific gun statistics, Republican State Representative Matt Windschitl and Iowa House Republicans plan to revive a gun rights bill that was actually passed last year by the House, to eliminate all regulations on guns. Reacting to President Obama’s recently proposed anti-gun legislation after the massacre of 26 teachers and children at Newtown, Connecticut, Windschitl said, “I think it is an assault on the Second Amendment….” These Iowa politicians need to study the 2nd Amendment in its historical context. Even Iowa City suffered a mass shooting incident several years ago.
I was a military policeman in Vietnam and we had extensive training and experience in the handling and shooting of pistols and fully automatic weapons. I also grew up in a hunting family. When in Vietnam I encountered situations under enemy fire, but I was most frightened when my own men misfired weapons at point blank range. In Iowa now it only takes 60 minutes on the internet with a 20 question quiz and NO range training to get a concealed weapon permit.
Access to these guns by children is a serious issue. I am a retired teacher from the Waterloo Schools, and prior to 2002 on two separate occasions I saw a 4th grader and a 7th grader bring a handgun from their home to school with deadly intent. In just the last two years since Iowa has changed their regulations for concealed weapons permits from a “may issue” to a “shall issue,” there have been over 140,000 new permits issued. All these additional people handling guns in their homes on a daily basis with little training is not a comforting thought.
Some people think they are safer carrying a concealed weapon, but revealing that weapon during a criminal act could make the situation deadly. A Rand study found that even experienced New York City Police who became involved in a gunfight, only hit their intended targets 18% of the time. In one situation last year, NYC police wounded 9 bystanders while taking a gunman down.
President Obama is not proposing that citizens can not own guns. What is clear however, is that there needs to be regulations on who can own and have access to guns, and what kinds of guns and accompanying equipment should be allowed by private owners. If gun advocates want to hide behind the Second Amendment, our Founding Fathers clearly stated things needed to be “well regulated”. Our country holds the highest private gun ownership rate in the world and one of the worst gun death rates in the world compared to developed countries. Statistically around two thirds of shootings in communities are done by individuals that live there. The Harvard Injury Control Research Center found there is substantial evidence that indicates that more guns means more murders. It would be logical to believe then, that the more guns that can be owned privately and carried by anybody, the less safer our country, state, and communities will become.
This is no longer a political issue, but a large majority of Americans believe it a serious safety issue. In a recent survey it was found that 92% of Americans, 89% of Republicans, 87% of gun owners and 74% of NRA members all support universal background checks for gun sales. As our Commander-in-Chief said in his 2013 State of the Union Address about gun regulation laws proposed, “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress.”