Although many are still pushing for gun control, including President
Obama, fewer people are coming out strongly for effective measures.
There are several reasons.
Perhaps the greatest and most prevalent is the widely held belief that
the second amendment is about the “right to bear arms.” It is not.
Or, unfortunately, it was not originally.
Not until Scalia’s tortured and technical analysis of the linguistics
in the phraseology of the second amendment did the pre-ambulatory phrase become a contentious point. That 2008 ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, about the previously assumed requirement that
the ownership and carrying of arms be tied to service in a militia, held for the first time that the prefatory phrase, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” wasn’t important. At that point, the second amendment became about individual rights.
Until then it had been about States rights. It was all about the
federal government’s ability to regulate arms of any sort when those
arms were under the control of a “well regulated militia,” which, at
the time of the constitution’s adoption, was meant to reference a
substitute military controlled mostly by the respective State.
The founding fathers were very concerned about the power of a central
government, as well they should have been, having recently witnessed the abuse of such authority from the distant shores of England.
The United States had tried, for some twelve years, a
confederation, with little central authority, and many of the States
were still fearful of putting too much power in the hands of a Federal
government. The second amendment was posed mainly to allay those fears. But Heller has made all that moot.
The other factor softening the current push for gun control is the
fact that outrage at stupidity that frequently results in murder has a
very short shelf life. There’s also a number of sociological factors
at play. The outrage is spread unevenly across demographic groups, as
is the nature of that outrage.
Everyone gets up in arms (no pun intended) when something like Newtown
or Columbine happens, but the greater tragedies of daily drive-bys
and too frequent stray bullets in “tough” neighborhoods generate only
a low profile kind of rage that is far more likely to result in
senseless riots than reasoned public policy. Meanwhile “polite
society,” in their burst of Newtown rage, is confronted with the
ugliness of their normal tendency to ignore these daily assaults on
their poorer neighbors.
How quickly we lose interest when guilt confronts rage.
(to be continued)