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Editor’s note: This is part one of a three-part series examining nine policy change suggestions from student journalists at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The Guardian recently invited student journalists from Parkland, Florida’s high school paper, The Eagle Eye, to direct their coverage of the March for Our Lives protest. Evidently, adequate security isn’t all that was lacking at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; these kids have been cheated out of their education in civics as well. Rather than actually cover the march, these inept young activists showed off their complete lack of understanding about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship – and how the world works in general – with nine terrible suggestions.
Ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds
“Civilians shouldn’t have access to the same weapons that soldiers do. That’s a gross misuse of the second amendment.”
Yes, we should have access to the same weapons soldiers do. That’s not a misuse – it is the Second Amendment. Let’s take a look at 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, shall not be infringed.”
Notice that the wording of this amendment doesn’t guarantee the right to keep and bear arms because hunting large game unarmed is dangerous. Indeed – this text doesn’t necessarily safeguard the person’s right to self-defense against other individual ne’er-do-wells. Rather, because a well-regulated militia is necessary to secure the freedom of the state, the government will not make any law that infringes on the right of the people to keep and bear arms.
There are only two things that threaten the security of a free state: other states, and its own government if given too much authority over the people.
And who is the militia to whom the Founders referred? Let’s ask them. George Mason asked that very question – and answered it – at the Virginia Ratifying Convention in June of 1788: “I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.”
Thomas Jefferson spoke and wrote often on the subject. In the first draft of the Constitution itself, he wrote: “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” And in a letter to the man who drafted the Second Amendment, James Madison, Jefferson wrote, “What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms.”
Speaking of Madison, his thoughts on the Second Amendment are recorded in greater detail in the I Annals of Congress 434. “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country.”
“The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun,” Patrick Henry said at the Virginia Ratifying Convention.
Samuel Adams said at the Massachusetts Ratifying Convention that “The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
The idea that each person had the right to military-style weapons – the only ones that could adequately threaten a tyrannical government – was a well-understood idea at the time of the nation’s founding, and these quotes are by no means the only ones. They are merely the most famous – and briefest – examples.
Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons
“High-capacity magazines played a huge role in the shooting at our school. In only 10 minutes, 17 people were killed, and 17 others were injured. This is unacceptable.”
High-capacity magazines do allow you to shoot more round before having to stop to reload – a process that takes mere seconds for a shooter familiar with his weapon – but they do not affect the actual firing of the rifle. A semi-automatic AR-15 does not magically become fully automatic when you pop in a 30-round magazine, nor does it fire the bullets any faster. Therefore, high capacity magazines are not accessories that simulate automatic fire, which are what the students claim they want to see banned.
The problem wasn’t the magazine size; in 10 minutes, a man with a single-action six-shot revolver could kill 17 people. It was that four armed police officers – one of whom was on site the entire time – failed to engage the shooter. Even if that weren’t the case, Cruz didn’t use high capacity magazines or any accessories that actually increase the effective rate of fire; he used 10-round magazines only.
As for whether or not the public should have access to high capacity magazines and accessories that simulate automatic fire – or, for that matter, even fully automatic weapons themselves – please refer back to the previous point on the reason behind the Second Amendment.
Establish a database of gun sales and universal background checks
“Just as the department of motor vehicles has a database of license plates and car owners, the Department of Defense should have a database of gun serial numbers and gun owners.”
Here, the student journalists also say that this database should include what types of weapons, what caliber they’re chambered in, and what capacity they are – that last point, presumably, means that the magazines must also be logged.
It’s no-one’s business what guns you own, what bullet they shoot, or how many rounds you can fire in a minute. The purpose behind the unrestricted right to keep and bear arms is to tip the scale a little in favor of free people should the government attempt to disarm the public. Making sure the government – or anyone else who may come after you – doesn’t know what they’re up against grants a tactical advantage similar to what a concealed handgun carrier has during a confrontation with an armed assailant.
Furthermore, granting that authority to the Department of Defense would nullify the Second Amendment itself. After all, how else but through military force would the government remove our remaining rights?
These are just the first three suggestions. Given the state of our education system, it is, perhaps, not surprising that these kids exhibit such a lack of understanding of either the nation’s founding documents or how things in general – like guns – work. In part two, we will explore their interesting suggestions regarding privacy laws and mental health, the so-called gun show loophole, the Dickey Amendment, and the minimum age at which one may purchase a firearm.