Let’s Change the Culture of Gun Violence

By Alice A. Huffman, Criminal Justice Chair for the National Board of the NAACP and the State Conference President in California/Hawaii; and Wilfred T. Ussery, former National Chairman of CORE and former President of the Board of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) How proud we were to watch the president while supporting the families of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut vowing to do whatever he can to stop the carnage. We are asking all Americans to move beyond the traditional incremental modifications of gun laws and address a more systemic problem in America, namely, the nation’s out-of-control, culture of gun violence. We are now a nation with 5 percent of the world’s population but which has 50 percent of the world’s guns in civilian hands. The nation’s obsession with gun ownership emanates from, and is supported and nurtured by the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. The 2nd Amendment has fulfilled its initial purpose and is no longer needed. Years ago when it was created, we lived in a far different world.  The 13 American colonies became the 13 United States of America in 1783, following the war for independence from Britain. The 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791. It is believed that Madison proposed it, but it was common law in the constitutions of most of the 13 states. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution supports the creation of a militia and gives everyone in the United States the right to “keep and bear arms.” Obviously when a massacre, like the one in Newtown, happens to little children, it stops the nation in its tracks, but if we look at the shocking results of our nation’s gun laws, we know that no community in America is safe from gun violence, particularly, the nation’s urban communities where people of color are being murdered in greater numbers than all of the Americans who died in the last two World wars and Vietnam. The 2nd Amendment that many hold so dear reads, “A well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” This 2nd Amendment was adopted almost 221 years ago. With the formation of the new Constitution that gave the federal government its national power and presence, the founding fathers  created: A common currency, where before, individual states still produced their own; a national military force – until then many states still had their own armies and navies; a centralized control over foreign policy rather than states negotiating directly with other countries; and the national system for imposing and collecting taxes. In 1787, the new Constitution was approved. In 1789, Congress began deliberation on the Bill of Rights that created the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. In 1789, the newly created country was slowly taking shape, but the states that still had been acting as their own countries and were negotiating with foreign powers with their own currency  and wanted their own militia. Today, the official militia of the states is the National Guard. The National Guard was established as a federally funded reserve component of the nation’s armed forces in 1903 with the Militia Act of 1903 under Title 10 and Title 32 of the U.S. Code. The National Defense Act of 1947 created the Air Force as a separate branch of the Armed Forces of the United States and concurrently created the Air National Guard as one of its reserve components, mirroring the Army’s component structure. So now that we have a National Guard that operates under the control of the governors of the states, why do we need a Constitutional Amendment that allows individuals to form a militia? We will not stop our nation’s infatuation with guns, its culture of gun violence, and the directly related senseless killing that occur daily in America until we change our nation’s 221 year old, obsolete, 2nd Amendment to the Constitution. “USA Today” reported on Dec. 20 that, “Mass killers target Americans once every two weeks on average, in attacks. The killings between 2006 and 2010 of 747 victims from 157 murders classified as mass murders by the FBI offer a portrait of mass murder that in many ways belies the stereotype of a lone gunman targeting strangers. Children are frequently victims of gun violence. These massacres are never called white on white crime, but, when it comes to urban areas we think about Black on Black crime and Brown on Brown killings which gives the majority population a reason to look the other way. So we propose two things: first, that we should begin thinking about all of these deaths without regard to race, but as all of our children and others – young and old – who are affected by gun violence in America. Race has nothing to do with the finality or neutrality of death. Second, we should modify the Second Amendment to read: “While a well-regulated militia is unnecessary to sustain the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall be well regulated.” Approval of this proposed rewrite of the language of the 2nd Amendment can lead to the successful adoption of an amended Second Amendment that over time would profoundly change the nation’s culture of violence, the incidence of gun violence and make us all safer.
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