The recent tragedy in San Bernardino once again brings to the forefront the ongoing philosophical dispute between the National Rifle Association and much of the citizenry regarding the interpretation of the Second Amendment to our country’s Constitution.
As we all know, the perpetrators of the San Bernardino massacre possessed a large quantity of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition, all of which were apparently purchased legally. Rather than listening to pro-gun associations continually repeat their argument that everyone should be allowed unrestricted purchases of handguns and rifles for self-protection, is it now time to revisit the Second Amendment and modify it to make it relevant to today’s world?
We must remember that our Constitution was written in the late 1700s – over 200 years ago. A rifle was loaded by ramming the bullet down the barrel of the gun for each shot fired. Pistols likewise were single-shot weapons. Both were primarily used to shoot wild game for food. Violent crime involving either type of weapon was virtually unknown. It made sense to place within the first 10 amendments to our Constitution a provision that all citizens should have the right to own such a weapon.
Now let’s fast-forward to today. Rapid-firing weapons of all kinds are readily available in the marketplace. There is no limit on how many or what kind of weapons a citizen may possess or for what use the purchaser has for them. The so-called “background check” required to purchase such weapons would seem to be easily circumvented by those with evil intentions.
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Which brings us to the question at hand: Would the Second Amendment have been written in the same manner today? Or would it have included some provisions intended to protect our citizens from those who would amass an armory of rapid-fire weapons for nefarious usage? Would our citizenry be safer or more at risk if it were illegal for an individual to own more than one pistol or one rifle with limited-cartridge capabilities? Law enforcement personnel would, of course, be excluded from this restriction.
Let’s dig a little deeper. Albert Einstein said, “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Allowing our citizenry access to modern firepower does not contribute to their protection from those who would harm them. White-collar crime has probably done more damage to our communities than violent crime, and all too often these criminals get off scot free.
And that brings us to the bottom line. Is it time to take a second look at our Second Amendment and bring it into the 21st century? What if our nation made it a criminal offense for an individual to own more than a single pistol or a single rifle? What if all of us decided to put the welfare of our communities ahead of the creation of arsenals in our homes? What if we each accepted the reality that excessive weapons in the hands of us who care deeply about our safety has done absolutely nothing to prevent evil or demented people from acts of terror? What if each of us became a steward for peace instead of an advocate for armament? What if we take a second look at the Second Amendment?
The families of those who lost their lives in San Bernardino may be asking these same questions.
Richard A. Johanson is chair emeritus of the Fresno Business Council and founder of Johanson Transportation Service of Fresno.