AP File Photo Will Michaels of Homer, La., examines a Bushmaster assault-style rifle at a Las Vegas gun show last year.Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens’ book, “Six Amendments,” came out in April. Since April, when I first checked more than a week ago, 67 people had been killed by killers with guns and an astounding 210 wounded in U.S. mass shootings. Ooops. Checked five days later, those numbers grew to 79 dead, 226 wounded — as of June 15. As you read this, there are surely more.
What connects these items is that among the “six amendments” to the Constitution proposed by Stevens is one directly affecting guns — more to the point, this notion that we have a virtually unfettered right to own them.
The full name of the book is “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.” In it, Stevens pays some attention to the Second Amendment.
The rest of us should, too, as in its real meaning. Another book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” by Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, says much on this topic of misinterpretation.
The numbers above on shootings seem to have little effect on our views on the wisdom of this “right.”
The numbers come from the Mass Shooting Tracker (shootingtracker.com/”wiki/Main_Page). The producers of this page make the perfectly reasonable argument that mass shootings shouldn’t be defined as just those in which multiple people are killed. Multiple people also suffer grievous wounds. Lopping them off from the definition of mass shootings leaves the amount of gun mayhem seriously undercounted.
Oh, right. Shooters are inflicting this mayhem, not guns.
Well, shooters shooting rubber bands? Are those biting insults hurled with deadly force? Spit wads? Baleful glares?
No, bullets — useless without those easily accessible guns.
Among the shootings are some that instantly grab our attention. There was the shooting on April 3 by Ivan Lopez at Fort Hood — four dead and 16 wounded.
There are murder-suicides in which children not a party to the pact, if there was one, were also killed. There are shootings involving gangs and drugs, of the type we tend to gloss over.
There were the shooting deaths of four and wounding of eight by woman-hater Elliot Rodgers in Santa Barbara on May 23. In Las Vegas on June 8, we had cop-killers Jerad and Amanda Miller in the listing as well.
Gun owners and Congress remain unfazed.
These shooters are people who are killing and wounding people with guns. That means they are people, by definition, who shouldn’t have had guns. However, we arrive at this definition after the fact. Before the fact? Unless they fit into some narrow categories — and even these folks manage to get guns — they’ve got the right to have guns, by God and the U.S. Supreme Court’s perversion of the Second Amendment.
Anyone not struck by how many of these shooters “legally” procured their guns hasn’t been paying attention. Folks have wrapped themselves in a don’t-tread-on-me ideology that is part and parcel with this “right” to own guns.
Stevens notes in his book that, back in 1991, then-former Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger said the Second Amendment “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud — I repeat the word ‘fraud’ — on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”
The fraud revolves around the word “militia.” So, Stevens proposes a simple amendment:
“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms when serving in the militia shall not be infringed.”
Recently, President Barack Obama said, “Our levels of gun violence are off the charts. There’s no advanced developed country on Earth that would put up with this.”
Just one, apparently, full of people who love owning and profiting from selling guns more than life — other people’s.
O. Ricardo Pimentel is a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News.MORE IN Perspective
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