December 14, 2012 is a day many of us in Connecticut and around the country will remember as the day that twenty-six innocent lives were lost on account of a mentally ill man with assault weapons at his disposal. Twenty children ages six and seven and six women, many of whom risked their lives to save their students, killed with much of their lives still yet to live.
Many are saying that this is not a gun control issue, but that we should focus on treating mental illness. I could not agree more with the fact that mental illness needs to be a focus of funding and research. Unfortunately, we will always have people who struggle with mental illness. It’s a sad truth, but it’s something that we will have to learn to deal with. Assault weapons, however, are not something that we should have to learn to deal with; they are a stoppable force if the federal government can implement the right laws. On the same day as the Newtown shooting, another attempted massacre was taking place on the other side of the globe at a primary school in central China. A 36-year-old man stabbed twenty-two children between the ages of six and twelve years old. The difference between this tragedy and the one in Newtown: every one of those kids in China survived. Because the weapon of an equally mentally instable man was a knife instead of an assault rifle, these children could go home to their families.
The second amendment gives us the right to bear arms. Many forget that when the Bill of Rights was written, this country had just won the Revolutionary War, a war that was essentially a battle between belief systems. Our founding fathers wanted to do everything in their power to keep a monarchy from ever ruling the United States, and therefore, stated that “a well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state” made it necessary for the its citizens to have the “right to bear arms”. It is clear that giving American citizens the right to own guns was for one reason: to be able to revolt against a tyrannical government or an imposing power. I find it completely irrelevant to use the Second Amendment in today’s society to defend our power to purchase and own firearms. The conditions that were applicable when these laws were made are not so today, just as it was acceptable and tolerated in the constitution to own slaves then, but is clearly not so now.
I am not saying that all firearms should be banned, though in a perfect world that may be my reality. People who own guns for hunting or simply out of fear and yearning for protection are not at fault here. But neither of these people need assault weapons to accomplish these things. Adam Lanza used, among two other guns, an AR-15 style rifle to shoot twenty children and six adults fatally; the same type of rifle that was used in the movie theatre massacre in Aurora, Colorado this summer. Weapons like these should be banned in this country, even if it decreases the death toll for gun violence by a small amount. If laws like this had been in place before last Friday, some of those children may have been able to celebrate the holidays this year. Sadly, it is reality now that they will not.