Apparently Guns Are Worth More Than Human Life

Las Vegas is only the beginning of a long line of shootings. I predict that, in the near future, we’ll witness a far greater massacre that will impact more families, more children, and more Americans. And after that, we’ll have an even larger massacre. The violence, the fear, and the bloodshed — none of it will cease anytime soon.

Obviously, I don’t want another shooting to happen. But until we offer more than thoughts and prayers when people die because of gun violence, until we provide more than a heartfelt tweet or Facebook post, until we act on our sympathy and pass any type of worthwhile legislation to protect us from the gun craze, we can only expect another massacre to devastate America.

We’re insane to believe that after centuries of wars and animosity, the world will figure gun violence out on its own. We have to do something impactful if we want to ensure our communal safety.

It has been hard for me to feel protected in a country that hasn’t passed meaningful gun-control legislation since Sandy Hook. It’s why I was almost shocked when this past week, after the Las Vegas shooting, I saw Congress negotiate a gun control agreement. Democrats and Republicans — with the support from groups like the N.R.A. — admitted that we must place restrictions on a firearm accessory called “bump stocks.” A bump stock, as I found out, was used by the Las Vegas shooter. It replaces a rifle’s standard stock and frees the weapon to slide back and forth, harnessing the energy from a gun’s kickback. A bump stock effectively turns a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon.

Both major political parties agreed that this gun modifier shouldn’t be available to the general public.

But here’s the problem with Congress’ effort to ban bump stocks: it’s largely symbolic, and will not stop another mass shooting from happening. Nearly all other mass shootings in America have not used bump stocks, so we are fooling ourselves if we believe that banning bump stocks is how we’ll stop gun violence. If we truly don’t want to see another Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas, San Bernardino, or Sandy Hook — to name too many — we have to do more. We have to enact meaningful gun control.

Meaningful gun control does not mean taking away guns from responsible gun owners. Meaningful gun control means, for example, disallowing people who are on the no-fly list from purchasing a firearm. If someone is too dangerous to be on a plane, they are too dangerous to own a gun. Meaningful gun control means prohibiting concealed guns in college classrooms, or in elementary schools, or in nurseries. It means restricting access to military-grade firearms. It means we regulate the 12 states that allow people to carry concealed weapons without any kind of permit.

Gun possession is not an unlimited right, and it’s subject to some restrictions to maintain public peace.

Yet some conservatives insist that gun possession is an unlimited right — that the Second Amendment guarantees every person in the United States access to a firearm. These conservatives frequently cite the phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” at the end of the Second Amendment.

But by arguing this, these conservatives ignore the Second Amendment’s preamble, which specifies that access to a firearm is specifically for “a well regulated Militia,” not the general public. The Second Amendment provides a collective right to gun possession, not an individual right.

If the framers of the constitution wanted to expand the meaning of the phrase “bear arms” to include all civilians, they could have done so by adding the phrase “for the defense of themselves” to the end of the Second Amendment, as was exactly done in the state constitutions of Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. This clarification within the constitution would have expanded unlimited access to firearms for individual Americans. It could have been a simple inclusion, but it was explicitly left out.

Even if the meaning of the Second Amendment were susceptible to a different interpretation, the burden would be on the conservatives to explain how the Second Amendment’s preamble doesn’t refer to “a well regulated Militia.” The Second Amendment is so short and so succinct that I can’t understand how we can disregard its leading clause.

The massacre of Las Vegas — along with the thousands of other modern cases of gun violence — forecasts what America will look like if we stay complicit. We must act soon, and we have to question the role of guns in our society. We have an obligation to maintain the well-being of each person in our country. If that means revamped gun laws and more intense background checks for guns, so be it.

We don’t want to see another Las Vegas. We don’t want to see another Orlando. We don’t want to see another Sandy Hook. We don’t want to see Americans endure any more suffering that we could prevent.

About the Author

Matthew Cunningham

Student, athlete, writer, political nerd, and patriarchy smasher