OPINION: Regulating gun ownership requires the actions of all who also want an American democracy

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With the mass shooting in Allen, Texas, last weekend, America witnessed its 199th mass shooting this year. At this pace, by the end of the year there will be more than the 647 mass shootings occurring in 2022.

In addition to the hundreds killed in mass shootings last year, more than 50,000 Americans have died or been seriously injured as a result of gun-related violence and accidents.

 This does not represent the apex of human civilization. It shows clearly that America is in the pits, not just geographically, but historically as well.

Yet, as we are confronted with these statistics and this reality, many political leaders at the federal and state levels re-coil from passing any legislation that would limit the possession or ownership of weapons of human destruction. It does not matter to many of these political leaders that the majority of citizens favor things like banning the ownership of assault weapons, prohibiting gun ownership by people who suffer with mental problems, raising the age limit at which one can purchase firearms, and requiring extensive background checks before one can purchase firearms.

Rather than backing reforms in the purchase and ownership of guns, mass destructive or otherwise, states like Florida, Texas, and Mississippi have recently enacted laws to make it easier for citizens to purchase and own guns. For example, some states have authorized teachers to carry weapons in the classroom. Some have removed age limits for the purchase of guns. Some have authorized the carrying of weapons, open or concealed, in virtually all settings. 

These leaders, including governors Greg Abbott, Ron DeSantis, and Tate Reeves; representatives Lauren Boebert, Jim Jordan, and Steve Scalise; and Senator Ted Cruz, glory in their support of unfettered gun ownership. They hide behind statements and excuses like the problem is not so much guns as it is people with mental problems having guns, or “bad” people having guns. 

On the other hand, if they were sincere even in those instances, they would support more professionals and more funds to treat mental illnesses. If they were truly sincere, they would listen more intently to the warnings of many law enforcement officials regarding the increasingly gun-toting citizenry. The effort to make schools, malls, clubs, and other gathering places “mass shooter-proof” is so impossible to do as to be ludicrous to suggest as the solution to the problem of mass shootings.

Above and beyond those factors, these conservative leaders, most of whom are Republican, turn a completely deaf ear and completely blind eye to the fact that many, if not most, of the mass shootings occur after and as a result of individuals having been radicalized by media outlets such as FOX NEWS and/or years of simmering in racial, cultural, or religious hatred. It is allowed to fester and grow, contributing mightily to mass, as well as individual, racial shootings by police officers and civilians.

As NAACP President Derrick Johnson pointed out in an interview last month, the mixture of mental illness, racial hysteria, and the ready availability of weapons of mass destruction is a dangerous combination. It is for certain full-blown in America. 

As long as we are on the subject, we may as well point out that racial hatred, and the racism that it feeds, are examples of mental illness. The most frightening parts about it are that those infected by it are almost always in total denial and that those victimized by its outbursts are generally so marginalized until they are unprepared to adequately protect themselves.

Lest we stray from the initial proposition – regulating gun ownership will reduce gun violence – we hasten to point out that too many Americans have their position on gun ownership rooted in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They feel that they have a “right” to own a gun.

The writer does not pretend to be a lawyer. However, as written, the Second Amendment does not appear to confer that “right” on any individual. The amendment says, “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.”

Legal scholars have long had different interpretations of what that means. For example, it has been argued that the amendment was written at a time when America was young and relatively weak and felt that these militia were necessary to help protect the country from invading foreign powers. Since there is now a very strong military, such militia are no longer needed. Furthermore, individuals owning guns does not constitute a well-regulated militia. 

Moreover, it is well documented that the Second Amendment was written at a time when slave-holding states organized such militia to monitor the activities of enslaved Africans, especially protecting against rebellions and capturing escapees. Again, there is no need for such militias today, although many racists would like to see the existence of such.

Although 22 states and Puerto Rico currently have some form of authorized militia, they are practically useless given the fact that every state has a national guard. These units help the U.S. military and local law enforcers keep the state free and at peace. 

The privately-organized militias in many states harbor white supremacists such as the Three Percenters, the Proud Boys, and the Oath Keepers, who are bent on eliminating the development of genuine democratic government, even if and when it means rebelling against state and federal governments. It is they who seek greater ties with the strong right-wing supporters who are opposed to the sensible regulation of gun ownership in America. They both seek more death and chaos in order to “justify” creating a European-style fascist government.

Considering all of these factors, citizens who are concerned about halting the mass destruction of human beings, especially on the basis of race and ethnicity, and citizens who are concerned about enacting common sense gun ownership reforms, must seriously come together and vote out of office those seeking to destroy the development of a truly multiracial, multicultural democracy in America.

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OPINION: Regulating gun ownership requires the actions of all who also want an American democracy

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
May 15, 2023