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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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Trump's Clemson Dinner Is A Metaphor For America

Is McDonald's really gourmet?

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On day 23 of the government shutdown, Trump treated the winners of the College Football National Football Championship to a gourmet meal of fast food. It made for many jokes on the Internet to see the country's best college athletes dining on greasy plates of McDonald's. It was like a scene from Talladega Nights; packets of sauces were placed carefully in silver gravy boats while candles were lit to show the decorum of the dinner. Trump stood back, proud of his cheap meal, claiming that this was exactly what the players wanted.

It wasn't.

The dinner comes after a horrific Christmas season of penniless paychecks for government workers and destroyed national parks left without upkeep. As the American people want answers to why a man could be so selfish in his ventures that he would sacrifice the entire country's wellbeing, he chose to serve champions of a sport the lowest tier of American food. It was a slap in the face, honestly, and shows what an embarrassment the man is for the country.

Trump's fast food dinner for the Clemson players is essentially a metaphor for what America endures under his reign. He abuses the country like the sleazy businessman he is; choosing the cheapest options, whether it be slicing essential government programs that deal with food safety and national parks, or passing off fast food as catering.

Looking deeper, the fast food, in all its highly processed, fattening glory, parallels the standard at which Trump runs his country. Rather than having well-thought-out plans of action, transparent procedures, and beneficial ideas for the country, he resorts to the disgusting parts of our government to form his ideas. He practices xenophobia, racism, and sexism constantly, which attracts like-minded people to his government. He stubbornly holds on to an idea of a massive, costly wall, when so many other ills of our country could use the money.

He feeds the American people lies and deceit, constantly peddling the idea of the outspoken man who does not need to care for others.

But it's just a dinner, right?

It could be easy to fall into the pattern of believing even the simplest of Trump's actions are small and insignificant, but that kind of rhetoric distracts from the bigger picture. Trump chose to feed the players a smorgasbord of fast food because funding for the White House was little to nothing due to the government shutdown. That would mean the feast would come out of his own pocket, and that is just simply unimaginable for the businessman.

He essentially suffered from his own actions and decided the American people should suffer even more.

Those Clemson players got dressed in their nicest suits and traveled hours out of their way to be shown just how great their athleticism was. They went right before the first week of classes, forfeiting any preparing for their academics. They took time out of their way to meet the supposedly "leader of the free world," only to be served what they could get for four dollars down the street.

Regardless of your political and social views, is this really what you want?

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