By Thom Senzee
The only amendment in the Bill of Rights that literally includes the word “regulated” within its very text is the Second. Yet strangely, the NRA and other gun extremists think the right to bear arms is the only one among the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791, that should be totally un-regulated.
A fellow journalist whose work I admire recently educated me about 18th century usage of the word “regulated.” According to him, the words “well regulated” in the Second Amendment are a reference to supply. In that context, he explained, the framers were saying that militias should be “well supplied” with guns and ammunition.
As much as I respect my colleague, further research reveals that he’s only partially right—perhaps only arguably so.
Various sources including self-described “right-to-bear-arms attorney,” Daniel J. Schultz, assert that “well regulated” in the 1700s likely referred to something along the lines of a clock keeping good time—not governmental regulations controlling firearm ownership or usage.
But even in the metaphorical sense of clockworks precisely fulfilling the need to accurately mark or “regulate” time, wouldn’t “a well regulated militia” similarly mean providing an accurate number of firearms requisite to ensure the “security of a free state?” In that sense, we’re talking about an educated, however finite, estimation rather than unlimited access to guns to everyone, everywhere, all the time.
If gun rights advocates like Schultz want to argue that by “well regulated” Bill of Rights author James Madison meant clock-like precision, they should equally respect a vigor of exactitude with regard to what a militia needs in order to secure a free state, 2008’s Heller decision in the Supreme Court notwithstanding.
But the NRA and gun extremists expect us to believe that well regulated militia—which, for all intents and purposes is each state’s National Guard—somehow means guaranteeing on-demand access to weapons of mass destruction, like the AR15, to anyone who can scrape up 200 bucks.
In Heller, the Supreme Court for the first time in American history decided that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals’ right to bear arms. But the ruling also said states have the right to regulate firearms sales, despite what the NRA will tell you.
Today’s NRA is so extreme that it no longer believes age can be restricted—not even when it comes to possession of AR-15s or high-capacity magazines. Kudos to Florida for pushing back after Parkland by saying 21 is the right minimum age for purchase of certain weapons.
Knowing that among the ranks of the most ardent gun extremists are many enthusiasts of the current anti-immigrant movement led by Donald Trump and keeping in mind that the NRA opposes any form of regulation on gun purchases, one wonders how many of the aforementioned parties would back a requirement that said would-be gun buyers must show proof of U.S. citizenship in order to buy semiautomatic weapons.
Would their collective impulse to punish immigrants clash with their extreme opposition to any and all gun regulations? Luckily for them, that’s a purely academic question because old-fashioned, liberal, equality-loving, immigrant-welcoming Americans would never propose such a law.
Support Commonsense Gun Reform: Reverse Engineer NRA Scorecards
The best thing about the NRA’s Political Victory Fund is that it has a robust webpage you can reverse engineer in order to see who among America’s political ranks supports commonsense gun control.
Would you like to know if a candidate you’re considering voting for is subservient to the NRA? Want to find out if your elected representative has enough courage to earn an “F” from the powerful extremist group on its infamous scoreboard? You can easily find out where any candidate stands on commonsense gun control by way of the NRA-PVF page.
As a bonus, you’ll also find the NRA’s crassly demonized school-safety advocate du jour. Just to the right of the scorecard tracker on the NRA-PVF webpage, in the form of links to press releases “calling out” such “bad guys” as Florida gubernatorial candidate Chris King, is what I’d call an honor roll of such advocates. King earned his place at NRA-PVF for having the audacity to suggest a tax on bullets as a tool to help pay for gun violence intervention and prevention programs. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Some might say it’s passive aggressive to suggest voters use the NRA’s own website and rating system to push back against the group’s sophisticated, richly funded gun-promiscuity campaigns. But pragmatists who are tired of seeing our children gunned down in classrooms and school hallways should have no trouble turning the NRA’s own cynical work against a deadly agenda.
If you’re a politician with an “A” or “B” rating with the NRA, that’s all we need to know to vote against you.
If you think that’s cynical, how about this demonstration of rank cynicism: The same day eight states, including California, went to the polls for the largest post-2016 primary election to date, Donald Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos made a stunning statement. Revealing just how submissive to the NRA and to the firearm industry every arm of government is at the moment, DeVos informed a Senate committee that the Department of Educations’s school-safety commission, set up as the administration’s response to the mass shooting in Parkland, would not consider the role of guns in mass shootings as part of its research. Huh?
Perhaps, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s incredulous response encapsulates how average Americans feel about Secretary DeVos’s gross insult to commonsense and, more importantly, the victims and survivors of Parkland.
“So we’ll look at gun violence in schools, but not look at guns? An interesting concept,” Senator Leahy replied to DeVos.
Brady Campaign Still Shining its Light on Gun Violence
The Brady Campaign is a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that works for commonsense gun laws that respect the Second Amendment. I highly recommend the group as an antidote to the insanity that has taken over the NRA.
Most people who know about the Brady Campaign have the misimpression that it was begun by Sarah Brady, the wife of James Brady, who was press secretary to President Ronald Reagan, because he and the late former president survived bullet wounds inflicted by a would-be assassin in 1981.
Actually another incident a few years after the shooting in which the Bradys’ six-year-old son found a gun lying around the pool at a friend’s home and started pointing and waving it around inspired Mrs. Brady to launch the campaign a generation ago.
In the late Sarah Brady’s own words, from the Brady Campaign’s website:
“…I thought this was a perfect chance to talk to him about safety. So I took the little gun from him, intending to say he must never point even a toy gun at anyone.
As soon as I got it into my hand, I realized it was no toy. It was a fully-loaded Saturday-night special, very much like the one that had shot Jim. I cannot even begin to describe the rage that went through me. To think that my precious little boy had come so close to tragedy…”
From that day on, I decided that much more needed to be done to help keep children safe from guns. And since that time, I have fought against the gun lobby and anyone else who wants guns ‘anywhere, at any time for any one.’”
Lies, lies and more lies followed Pulse Orlando and Las Vegas
In 2016, I interviewed Imran Yousuf, the hero of the mass shooting at Pulse Orlando, a now shuttered nightclub that catered to south Florida’s LGBTQ community. Youseff is credited with saving the lives of 70 people the night Pulse became the site of the largest mass shooting in American history.
One of President Trump’s literally thousands of lies uttered during the past couple of years was that he is a great friend to the LGBTQ community. That’s a bald-faced lie. Since taking office, Trump has attacked LGBTQ people in the arenas of family issues, health care and military service. Likewise, he’s done nothing—not even banning bump stocks as he promised he would do after the Las Vegas shooting, which in 2017 replaced Pulse Orlando as America’s new largest mass shooting.
Now, between mass shootings—because we know that’s where we are thanks to the inaction of cowardly, NRA-owned politicians—is the time to act against gun violence. Support commonsense gun laws wherever you can.
Most importantly, in November, reward candidates who get low grades from the gun lobby and refuse to vote for those who the NRA gives high marks.
Thom Senzee is the San Diego-based founder and moderator of LGBTs In The News, America’s longest-touring LGBTQ panel series and author of the All Out Politics syndicated column.