Why Does The Second Amendment Still Exist?

Why Does The Second Amendment Still Exist?

What the Parkland Shooting needs to teach Americans about guns
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This past Wednesday, I walked into a dining hall to be met with the CNN Headline "POLICE ATTEMPTING TO IDENTIFY SHOOTER" blaring from every television.

I hadn't even heard about there being a shooting yet, but our media had already moved on from the initial shock, and weren't even referring to the specifics of the incident. I looked down at my phone, and sure enough, I had several notifications informing me that there had been a school shooting in a Florida high school. 17 people had been killed.

The worst part is, this is becoming the new normal.

Another week, another shooting.

These national tragedy news stories - Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Orlando, Charleston, Vegas, etc. - don't even crack the surface of the gun violence that occurs in the US every single day. The statistics have been enumerated over and over again, but here are a few striking ones:

When it comes to homicides by firearms, America has over four times as many per million people (29.7) as the next most deadly country, Switzerland (7.7 per million people killed by firearms). (Vox)

Between 1968 and 2011, more people were killed in shooting incidents on American soil than in any war fought by this country since its inception (BBC). And I don't think anyone is under the impression that we have a peaceful history.

On average, 96 Americans are killed with guns in a single day. (CDC)

96. Let that sink in for a second.

Think about all the suicides, the gang-related shootings, the kids who accidentally set off the family gun, the police shootings, the domestic violence-related murders that we never even hear about. 96 people per day is an overwhelming number. These deaths happen so often that it's impossible to cover them all in national news.

This is a problem of epidemic proportions, and it's because guns are embedded into American culture so deeply, that the idea of even minorly strengthening gun control laws sends lawmakers and citizens alike into a frenzy.

The basis of this gun culture is written into our Constitution, in the Second Amendment:

"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."

Throughout American History, this Amendment has been contested and upheld numerous times. One of the first of which, in 1822, overturned a fine that had been placed on a man for carrying a sword encased in a cane, thus solidifying the idea that people have an "individual right" to bear arms. Later in the 19th century, it was decided that former slaves would have the right to own a gun, in order to become fully realized American citizens.

In the 20th century, starting in the 30s, some restrictions were put on gun ownership. One had to have a license to sell or purchase guns, and certain people, including felons, were restricted from owning guns. Later on, restrictions were placed on the ownership of semiautomatic weapons.

Each restriction placed was seen as necessary for the time it was placed; the 30's restrictions were a reaction to increased gang violence, updated restrictions in the 60's were a reaction to Kennedy's assassination, the Assault weapons ban in the 90's was a reaction to the attempted assassination of Reagan, as well as dangerous new weaponry technology that legislators agreed should be kept out of the hands of the masses.

Today, however, the idea that someone shouldn't be able to purchase a military-grade weapon at a gun show without any kind of license is offensive to a major part of the country. And people with this viewpoint are largely in currently in control of our government.

The Trump administration's official view on gun rights is that "the Second Amendment is America’s first freedom....because the Right to Keep and Bear Arms protects all our other rights."

The administration's statement considers the Second Amendment to be nearly a prophetic text. Like many Americans, our government believes that the right to own a gun is so fundamental to our democracy that we should ignore the kind of people who take advantage of this right.

It is impossible to talk about the issue of gun violence in America without seeing it as tied to extremism, specifically white supremacy.

The perpetrator of the attack, Nikolas Cruz, is suspected of having ties with a white nationalist group that wants to turn Florida into a white ethno-state. Though there has been conflicting information, it is clear that Cruz posted several inflammatory comments online aimed at minorities, displaying similar racist proclivities to the Columbine and Orlando shooters, demonstrating a disturbing pattern. These are the kind of people that are able to easily acquire weapons, and aren't afraid to use them.

The group that claimed Cruz as a member, Republic of Florida, believes that "civil war is a very real possibility in the next two years." A spokesman from the organization described this possibility as “an open, violent clash involving guns and people stabbing and killing each other."

Even if Cruz is not a member of this group, it is undeniable that groups like this have a rapidly increasing influence on American political life. Apart from incidents like Charlottesville that highlight this, the number of hate groups in America is up 17% since 2014.

And many of these groups seek to take advantage of the Second Amendment right that politicians on both sides often ignore: the right to "a well regulated militia."

To use the Republic of Florida as an example, members of this hate group must pledge that they are "willing to wage battle" in order to defend the group's ideals, according to their website.

Groups like this want to bring America back to the time when the Second Amendment was drafted; back when militias were used to liberate white Americans from the British, while keeping slaves in chains. The modern day militia movement isn't that far off from the Founding Fathers in the sense that they uphold the view that their freedoms are ultimately what matter.

The liberation of some, while others suffer.

This is what America is based off of, as uncomfortable as it is to confront. When seen in this light, is it all that surprising that lawmakers choose the "freedom" to arm oneself over those 96 lives lost everyday?

We are a fundamentally violent country, in ways that extend far beyond the militia movement. And we're becoming more violent. An article in The New Yorker explains the psychology behind why school shootings and similar incidents seem to be becoming more and more frequent: perpetrators of these shootings see themselves as a part of a larger movement. The article likens school shootings to a slow motion riot, in that members of this "movement" are able to abandon their morals with more ease as others join in. In short, copycat crimes happen because with each crime, the group of criminals becomes larger, and it is easier to become part of this group.

This "group," which many members see as spiritually led by Eric Harris of the Colombine shooting, can in some ways be likened to a militia. It is a movement of disenfranchised white men who commit violent acts because they have sworn allegiance to something larger than themselves.

In reality, gun rights have never been about individuals, as much as politicians and the NRA make out of the "individual right" to own a gun.

Since the inception of our country, guns have always been used and abused by groups, by movements. You can't support the Second Amendment without acknowledging the nature of these groups.

Tomorrow, we could all wake up in the morning to another national tragedy that's already half a news cycle old, and our government still wouldn't do anything about it. By the time this article is published, hundreds of more people will have died preventable deaths because of the idolization of the Second Amendment.

We can't let this continue.

This is a piece of legislation that belongs in the past with the men that wrote it.

Cover Image Credit: Lala Photography

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...

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Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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