In the wake of the recent mass shooting in the Aurora, Colo., premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the debate over gun control has intensified, for better or for worse. Many pro-gun groups have come out and claimed that perhaps if there was someone else in there with a gun, then the perpetrator could have been stopped, relying on the premise that an armed citizen would have deterred the alleged shooter James Holmes or at the very least reduced the death toll. First, as a practical matter, it should be noted that this argument borders on the absurd. The suspected shooter, 24-year-old James Holmes, was wearing protective body-armor from head to toe. Unless the hypothetical armed citizen happened to be carrying armor-piercing rounds, he or she would have been just as much at the shooter's bidding as any other terrified victim and would not have been able to do much about it. This is not just my opinion, but is one that is shared by Former Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton.
More importantly, this argument, like many advanced by pro-gun groups continues to barrel down a path that deviates significantly from the spirit of the Second Amendment. It is true that the Second Amendment of the Constitution states, in part, that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This language is logically the rallying cry of every pro-gun lobby and people that oppose gun controls. So, what exactly is the problem with relying on this language? That language does not comprise the whole Second Amendment. The Second Amendment actually reads, in its entirety:
"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 historical context of the Revolutionary War should not be forgotten when reading the Second Amendment as a whole. The Patriots had just fought a war against one of the world's true military powers and did so, at least in the beginning, through the use of small militias organized at the local level (remember those middle school lessons about the Minutemen?). The Founding Fathers understandably were wary of a large tyrannical government and wanted to keep their new nation's citizens protected by allowing for such small scale groups again in the event the new government began to resemble the King's ruling over the Colonies.
Historical context also reveals the enormous gap between exactly what kind of "Arms" the people can keep and bear. After firing a musket during the Revolutionary War, the average reload time was between fifteen and twenty seconds a shot. By contrast, the Aurora shooter, used a semi-automatic AK47 which fires shots off as fast as the gunman cares to pull the trigger. James Holmes bought this weapon legally. He then went on to use that legally purchased firearm to kill 12 and injure 58 innocent people in a matter of minutes.
And where are the well-regulated militias the Amendment contemplates? Have you seen any fliers for joining up with any well-regulated militias recently? I know I haven't. All I seem to see is yet another massacre needlessly perpetrated by a madman that purchased each of his guns legally.
I also see an infuriating and truly disturbing solution employed by the pro-gun lobby to these horrific incidents, that more guns would mean less violence. As time goes on and we stray further and further from the language of the Second Amendment, this farce will be proven wrong time and time again.
Follow John M. Burns on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JohnBurnsDC