It was reported in an article, written by Janet Reitman in the New York Times on Nov. 3 that “white supremacists and other far-right extremists have killed far more people since Sept. 11, 2001, than any other category of domestic extremist. The Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism has reported that 71 percent of the extremist-related fatalities in the United States between 2008 and 2017 were committed by members of the far right or white-supremacist movements. Islamic extremists were responsible for just 26 percent. Data compiled by the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database shows that the number of terror-related incidents has more than tripled in the United States since 2013, and the number of those killed has quadrupled. In 2017, there were 65 incidents totaling 95 deaths. In a recent analysis of the data by the news site Quartz, roughly 60 percent of those incidents were driven by racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, antigovernment or other right-wing ideologies. Left-wing ideologies, like radical environmentalism, were responsible for 11 attacks. Muslim extremists committed just seven attacks.” For more information, check out the statistics that the Southern Poverty Law Center has been compiling on homegrown hate or terrorist groups in the U.S. and the crimes they commit, www.splcenter.org. What is even more disconcerting is the rise in hate crimes since the election of Donald Trump. The President’s inflamed and irresponsible rhetoric has fueled these haters and given them a veil of legitimacy to attack and defame minorities and those with whom they disagree.
But the scourge of gun violence in our country is not limited to hate crimes, as we apparently witnessed in Thousand Oaks with the murders of 11 young people and 1 valiant sheriff deputy at the Borderline Bar & Grill. What was the killer’s grievance? We do not know that yet but we do know that this massacre was one of over 300 mass murders in this country since the election of Trump. Americans killing Americans, some with hateful, racist motives and others for no apparent reason other than perhaps being spurned by a co-worker, rejected by a potential love interest or carrying a burden too heavy to bear anymore, coupled in some cases with a desire for fame in the act of ending their lives or giving law enforcement an excuse to do it for them. Mental health issues — yes certainly, but while there are mental health issues across the globe, this epidemic is unique to the U.S. What makes us so different? Plain and simple, the proliferation of guns and easy access to them!
Any calls for the government to act, whether it be to allocate funding to research this epidemic, limit access to guns, require universal background checks, find better ways to address mental health issues or enact any form of gun control measures, are all met with the argument that such initiatives would invade our sacred Second Amendment rights.
To me that is a perversion of the Second Amendment of the Constitution which states:
“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 impaired.”
This Amendment has been distorted by ignoring the first part of the sentence, which goes to the purpose of the amendment, i.e. “security of a free State” and the meaning of “a well-regulated Militia.” Note that the word State is capitalized, which means each of the 50 States of the Union as its own form of self-government. It does not mean a bunch of individuals running around forming their own “militias,” an attribute of many of the hate groups out there.
Furthermore, having hundreds of thousands of guns in the homes of every Tom, Dick, Harry and Harriet, with no control (i.e., regulation) over those people or their guns is the opposite of a “well-regulated Militia, and does not contribute to the “security of a free State.”
The meaning of the word “Militia” according to Black’s Law Dictionary is:
“A body of citizens armed and trained, especially by a state, for military service apart from the regular armed forces. The Constitution recognizes a State’s right to form a ‘well regulated militia’ but also grants Congress the power to activate, organize, and govern a federal militia. U.S. Const., amendment II; U.S. Const., article 1 § 8, clause 15-16.”
Now how did we get from the Second Amendment to where we are today? Certainly not by “strict construction” of the Constitution. We got here by the powerful NRA, gun manufacturers, their gun lobby and their influence over every aspect of our political institutions. Perhaps this new generation of victims, primarily young, educated and white, will be able to have a more lasting impact on our politics and our legislators. Perhaps the Congress can be convinced that research regarding the gun violence epidemic, including viable solutions to the problem, would be a much better use for the $200 million-$300 million of taxpayer money the President wants to spend to deploy U.S. active duty troops and the National Guard to our southern border presumably to “protect” us from poor Latino women and children in search of the American dream and a better way of life.
Additionally, I think it may be time for another frontal legal attack on the constitutional underpinnings of the more recent Second Amendment cases. There are two rights at issue here that are in stark contrast. What happened to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I believe the “security” of a free State is meant to protect and enhance these rights of the citizens, as well as their right to feel secure within their State. People’s rights are not protected or made more “secure” by having “more good guys with guns” because as we continually see, these “good guys” like Sgt. Ron Helus, are also being slaughtered. There has to be a better way. We have to find it to protect our children and grandchildren, our parents, ourselves and the men and women in our law enforcement community who are committed to the “security of a free State.”
As we honor the sacrifices of those who have fought and died for our nation in conflicts around the world, I believe we have an obligation to solve this pervasive problem of gun violence in our midst before more lives are lost on our own soil by our own hand. It should not be overlooked that the latest perpetrator of the carnage in Thousand Oaks, Ian David Long, was himself a veteran and resident of Newbury Park. Just as our gun laws and policies failed the young people who were injured or lost their lives at the Borderline Bar & Grill, they also failed a former Marine who also lost his life.
We must all speak up and raise our voices for sane gun control measures.
Barbara Macri-Ortiz is an attorney residing in Oxnard.