NICK VANDERWULP: A well regulated militia?
Americans are mourning this week after a mass shooting in a city that had seen another high-profile gun death over the weekend. In the never-ending argument about the rights granted by the Second Amendment and how gun control should be handled in the United States, what must be made clear are the meaning, spirit and legal requirements of the federal government and the states regarding private possession of armaments.
Singer Christina Grimmie was gunned down in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, June 10, during a meet and greet for fans after a concert. Her killer had two handguns and a hunting knife on him when he shot Grimmie and then killed himself in a scuffle with her brother. She died after being rushed to the hospital.
The Pulse nightclub in Orlando was invaded by Omar Mateen, who intended to kill as many people as possible. He chose a gay nightclub as his target, and since dead men tell no tales, we’re left to speculate about what exactly his motivations were for attacking and killing 49 people.
The jury is still out on what the true motives of both men were when they decided to take up arms and take the lives of other people. What’s clear is they had easy access to weapons with the capability to do harm to a lot of people around them.
What has become more evident over the years is gun violence continues to be a prominent issue in the political sphere, and a partial reading of the Second Amendment seems to be more of a dogma than a rational argument in battles about gun laws and regulations.
For those who need a reminder of what the full language of the Second Amendment reads, it says: “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.”
The first part of the amendment is what I’m calling to attention. What was the spirit of the amendment when it was ratified? Was it an open invitation to arm every citizen of the United States, or was it intended as it said, to be a well regulated force to ensure the security of a free state?
Many Americans have come to believe the story of the meaning and spirit behind the amendment was the arming of Americans to safeguard themselves against a tyrannical American government.
I’m a student of the latter interpretation. Militias were paramilitary forces called upon by the states in times of need to put down lawlessness, rebellions and insurrections. The Second Amendment was written as safeguard against tyranny only in the sense it purposed a well-regulated force of Americans to protect the constitutional governments of their states and of the country.
The outcomes of Shays’ Rebellion during 1786 and 1787 and the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791 are two cases in point regarding the spirit and the purpose of the “well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.” George Washington came out of retirement to help promote a stronger national force to deal with such rebellions during Shays’ Rebellion and in 1794 led the military force which put down the armed insurrection in western Pennsylvania.
The presumptive Republican candidate for the President of the U.S., Donald Trump, indicated in a speech on Monday that more “good guys with guns” would have stopped the killer in his tracks. Did he not know there was an off-duty Orlando police officer moonlighting as an armed security guard at the club? The good guy with a gun who exchanged gunfire on the scene with Mateen did what was expected and still didn’t stop him.
Supporters of the Second Amendment have fallen back on the line that more guns keep people safe. Do they really, though? Would someone with a gun in Pulse have been able to successfully defend the people around them? The police officer confronted Mateen outside and still wasn’t able to stop him in an open area. It wouldn’t have been any better in a dark club with hundreds of people, many of whom had been drinking.
More guns for everyone isn’t the answer, and I have to argue more training for private gun owners isn’t the answer, either. The “good guy with a gun” scenario can happen and does happen, but not only is it rare, the answer doesn’t lie in putting more guns into more hands.
The answer lies in better regulating whose hands the guns are available to while ensuring “the security of a free state.”
Nick Vander Wulp is an intern working with the Herald Review while studying at journalism and technical communication at Ferris State University. He is a gun owner and a shooting sports enthusiast.