Reflection: On Gun Laws

I am unlikely to get through this post on gun laws and reform without someone yelling at me about the Second Amendment. This has been sitting with me for a long time now and I need to get it out.

Here’s the language of the 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.”

And here’s some of the legal interpretation around this amendment over the years.

I have no doubt that there are responsible gun owners out there and if any of them want to weigh in here, please be my guest.

In the meantime, here’s the whole of my relationship with guns and/or gun violence:

Deer Season

My dad used to teach math at a rural high school. Students could miss class on the first day of deer season if they shared some venison with Dad. Mom and Dad dressed my sister and me in bright colors as the woods around our trailer were prime deer hunting areas. We’d hear shots ring out as we walked down the hill to the mailbox and back. We didn’t have direct experience with them though. And no one on either Mom or Dad’s side of the family were hunters but there were plenty of servicemen who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq.

The Brady Act

I was a junior in high school when the Brady Handgun Violence Act was signed into law, requiring background checks and implementing a waiting period to complete gun purchases. I recall the intense debates that played out in the media, in classrooms, and around dining room tables leading up to its passing (the second time it was introduced; it failed in 1987). The NRA was vehemently against the bill and spent millions to defeat it.


I watched CNN for days after the Columbine shooting. I was a senior in college and I couldn’t fathom how such a tragedy could happen to and be perpetrated by such young people. What drove such hate and despair? How did two teens have access to such an arsenal?

My Mom and the NRA

In 2008 or 2009, Mom and her family were up visiting when Mom said she had something to show me. She left for a moment to grab something, came back, plunked herself in a chair and shoved a NRA trucker’s cap on her head. “I’m a card-carrying member of the NRA now” she said triumphantly. My mother, a left-leaning Democrat for my whole childhood, had completed her conservative transformation. We haven’t spoken in many years so I can’t comment as to whether she still supports the NRA. I don’t know how she feels about how many innocent men, women, and children who have received death sentences as a result of her “Second Amendment right” and the toxic lobby that the NRA and other gun rights groups run.

“Present” Time

  • Newtown, CT (2012)
  • San Bernardino, CA (2015)
  • Orlando, FL (2016)
  • Las Vegas, NV (2017)
  • Sutherland Springs, TX (2017)

These are five of the ten deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. After each one, I wrung my hands and wondered what could be done to stop the gun violence, to stop the sale of semi-automatic and automatic weapons, to de-escalate the conflict. I talked with friends and family. I journaled. I read. I followed the conversation on social media. I’m not any closer to proposing a reasonable solution. I am here to listen and to talk.

With that…

Can someone please explain to me:

  1. Why having access to assault rifles to kill innocent people falls under the Second Amendment?
  2. Why when people of color perpetrate mass killings the “president” calls for the death penalty but when a white male perpetrates one (the bulk of the U.S.’s gun-related violence), he is mollycoddled by both politicians and mainstream media? Or if it is mental health related, as the “president” alluded to this time why on earth is the government reducing coverage of or access to mental health resources?
  3. After such episodes of violence, why is it “too soon” to talk of gun laws reform? I’ll half-answer that one for you. Here are the top politicians receiving campaign funds from the NRA and other gun rights groups. Thanks for all those “thoughts and prayers”, guys and gals.

If, like me, you’re wondering what you can do to help move gun legislation along, here are some suggestions:

  1. Vote for qualified people running in favor of gun reform.
  2. If you’re not up-to-speed about the various aspects of gun violence, read more about them. Everytown has a summary here.  If you’re looking for a media source of info, try this from Vox, this from The Atlantic (from 4 years ago), or this from the Washington Post.
  3. Donate to organizations fighting gun violence. Here, here, or here to start.


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