What does the Second Amendment actually say?
Here is the text: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, will not be infringed.
Conservatives have argued to varying degrees that the wording allows for a broad interpretation of who can carry guns. The Supreme Court recently gave its approval. With the exception of criminals, some people considered to have serious mental illness (although there are many gaps here), “sensitive places” such as schools or courthouses, or “dangerous weapons”, the Second Amendment allows ordinary people to own guns in their homes, Judge Antonin Scalia argued in a landmark 2008 gun case.
But several historians I spoke to today said that until this ruling, the Second Amendment was not meant to protect individual gun rights; it was more focused on the use of firearms in militias. conservatives in the 2008 Supreme Court gun case (District of Columbia v. Heller) argued that the phrase “militia” was only a “preface” rather than part of its full meaning. And it became the first Supreme Court decision in constitutional history to strike down a gun control law, said Reva Siegel, a Yale law professor, who added that the court’s reading was considered as broad even for a number of conservatives at the time.
Any day now, the Supreme Court could expand its interpretation of what the Second Amendment protects. The court’s conservatives are expected to rule that the amendment now applies to the right to bear arms in public spaces, overturning a New York law and affecting laws in other liberal states.
“We’ve moved to an increasingly radical interpretation of the Second Amendment,” political scientist Susan Liebell of Saint Joseph’s University told me.
Let’s dig into other thorny gun law debates
Do armed “good guys” save lives? There are certainly instances where this has happened. Hours after the Uvalde, Texas massacre on Tuesday, top Texas Republicans said the solution was to arm more teachers. (Texas already allows some school staff to be armed, but police said today that Uvalde’s shooter entered the school “unobstructed.”) The Post’s Philip Bump reviewed the recent mass shootings and found that the presence of an armed guard did not stop shooters from killing people in seconds.
Chicago also has a lot of gun violence: It’s the argument that tougher gun laws in liberal cities don’t stop the killings. The Post’s fact checker looked into this in 2017, after the Las Vegas mass shootings, and found that despite Chicago’s tougher gun laws, most guns came from other states.
Do restrictive gun laws effectively prevent mass shootings? There are so many guns in America that any restrictive gun law could take years to make a difference, and even then it’s hard to gauge why violence is increasing or decreasing. The United States has far more guns per person than any other country – and far more gun violence, including not only mass shootings, but also homicides and suicides in which guns are used . Certainly, some gun control policies help reduce violence, The Post’s Fact Checker reported in 2017 — like requiring a license to have a gun. But he found that the evidence is thin that tougher gun laws would quickly and dramatically reduce rates of gun violence.
But that’s no reason not to act, say gun violence activists and Democrats. The latest government data shows that guns now kill more children than cars. Researchers say if lawmakers focused on reducing gun violence in the same way as car crashes, it could make a difference. “Families might not go through this grief and terrible loss over and over again,” Jennifer M. Whitehill, a University of Massachusetts researcher who specializes in injury prevention, told The Post’s Dan Keating.
A bad sign for tougher gun laws
Even after 10 people were killed by a gunman at a grocery store in a predominantly black Buffalo neighborhood this month — and the arrest of a white suspect with apparent racial motives — Democrats felt no action Gun control only had a chance of breaking a Republican filibuster in the Senate. So they focused on something else: allowing the government to investigate domestic terrorism, which the FBI says is a growing threat.
The House last week passed a bill to create national counterterrorism offices in three federal agencies. The legislation was touted by Democrats as a potential concrete, bipartisan step the federal government could take beyond offering thoughts and prayers to cities ravaged by mass shootings.
Today, Senate Republicans blocked it. As my colleague Mike DeBonis explains, they said it was too soon to address the recent mass shootings with new legislation and argued that the government’s investigation of domestic terrorism could lead to “targeting” conservatives. Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) dismissed the bill as “a pure message” and “attempting to profit from people’s grief.”
And it’s a bill that had no restrictions on guns – demonstrating the skyrocketing rise of even nominally restrictive gun laws, even after another mass shooting in which children were slaughtered.
“I just don’t think there’s a way forward for federal action,” Lanae Erickson, who is part of the center-left think tank Third Way and has spent the past decade doing pushing for tougher gun laws in Congress.