Binghamton, New York is home to three Firebrand Left staffers, myself included, and in April of 2009, our city was the unfortunate host of a horrible mass shooting, one of the worst in the nation’s history. Jiverly Antares Wong, an immigrant from Vietnam, senselessly murdered 13 people and injured four others before killing himself at the American Civic Center near downtown Binghamton.
I’m reminded of that horrible event each time a mass shooting occurs in the United States. I’m sure that will happen for the rest of my life, too. I didn’t personally know any of the victims, though my Facebook at the time was flooded with messages from friends and family who did. With each of these mass shootings, I find myself wondering how anything like this could happen. Why these tragedies have been occurring with greater and greater frequency. What we, as a society, can do to prevent these sorts of terrible events from transpiring.
Washington hasn’t offered any solutions. Republicans offer only inaction; they expect us to ride the storm and aren’t willing to make any compromise that might limit gun ownership. Meanwhile, Democrats offer lackluster solutions that won’t really help curb the tide of gun violence in America. Background checks are a decent step, but they’re only going to prevent a small portion of gun-related crimes. They’re a half-measure that wouldn’t have stopped Jiverly Wong here in Binghamton, or Chris Harper-Mercer in Oregon, or Dylann Roof in South Carolina.
The solution might be in the Second Amendment itself
So what can we do to thwart these sorts of events? To find an answer, we might need to turn toward the root of the problem, the Second Amendment. Specifically, the wording thereof.
No, I’m not suggesting everyone in America carry a firearm. More guns will not solve this dilemma, contrary to those gun owners who fancy themselves as Bruce Willis and are certain they can stop whatever problem might arise given enough ammunition.
I’m talking about implementing a literal interpretation of the second amendment. A dramatic overhaul of gun legislation in this country, focused entirely around the actual wording of the second amendment, and not the bastardized definition of it adopted in recent decades by firearm aficionados who ignore key portions of the amendment for their own benefit.
A literal interpretation of the Second Amendment
Let’s take a look at the Second Amendment. It reads as follows:
“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.”
Now, what if we used the Second Amendment in a literal fashion, and created gun legislation based on that interpretation? We might end up with citizen-run militias in each state, sponsored by their State Government and regulated by the Federal Government. Sort of like the National Guard, but with no real ties to the Defense Department, outside of deals struck by legislators in their respective states to help equip and train those militias.
Each citizen-led militia would be allowed to develop their own requirements and prerequisites for membership, so long as they did not conflict with federal regulations. Those federal regulations would include background checks, certain base restrictions on who can and cannot join those militias, and strict demands for record-keeping and frequent data collection.
To own a firearm in the United States, membership in a militia would be required, at least for some period of time. You would need to be certified by that militia in weapon safety and use, and states would be pushed toward implementing “gun license” programs, similar to motor vehicle licensing, which would including training, testing, physical and mental health prerequisites, and gun ownership insurance, which would pay out to the victims of gun violence should a firearm you own be used to wound or murder someone.
What role might these militias play in society? I’m not sure. The National Guard defends the homeland, and I’m obviously not some right-wing loon who thinks Obama is going to invade the United States, nor do I believe the government is inherently evil and citizens will need to resist it in the foreseeable future. Really, I see these militias as being little more than clubs, with their primary focus being regulatory and having a commitment to enhancing safety. If local law enforcement or state governments need to call on them for assistance, they’d be a trained and regulated force that could offer that sort of help.
Everyone Wins, Because Everyone Compromises
This idea of militias is far from perfect. Surely, there would be many on both sides of this debate who would find countless issues with it. But here’s something everyone needs to understand about this and every other issue: without some degree of compromise, we’re all just going to argue endlessly and nothing will ever actually get done.
Gun-lovers can keep their guns, and be connected with other gun-lovers, too. Everyone else in America, as well as a considerable chunk of gun owners who feel regulations should be stricter, would be happy with the regulations. Will guns still exist? Yes. Will gun owners hate the new regulations? Yes. But the point of this idea is that everyone wins, to some degree anyway, because everyone compromises. And anyone unwilling to make rational compromises quite frankly isn’t mature enough to be a part of this conversation.
It’s time to face the facts here, America: Something needs to be done to curb gun violence in this country of ours. Our absolutism isn’t getting us anywhere. Is this proposal a definitive solution? Of course not. But at least it’s an idea that involves compromise, and that, above all else, is the point of this article. If we can’t find common-sense solutions to this problem, ones involving fair compromises that lead to serious reform, then we may as well outlaw guns altogether. It’s one or the other, folks. Simply doing nothing and allowing Americans to die by the tens of thousands every year is clearly the worst choice in this ultimatum we’re faced with today. And if gun-owners aren’t willing to see their weapons stripped from them, then clearly this idea, or perhaps some other idea involving realistic compromise, is what needs to be done.