BY ANNE LINERS, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Immediately following the horrifying mass shooting in Texas last week, dialogue sprang up around the hopeful and nebulous how could this have been prevented?
But this most recent tragedy seems to have left the national consciousness particularly quickly. It seemed that as much despair and outrage as there was, there was nothing new to say. Every desperate plea for gun control had been made after Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Orlando. However, the same lines have been used every time to shut it down from Twitter threads to congressional halls: “The second amendment protects all Americans’ right to bear arms. The tragedy could not have been prevented. This is the price of freedom.”
The thing is, though, that’s not necessarily true. In response to the incredible amount of attention the second amendment gets after any shooting in the U.S., I’d like to take some time on my personal favorite amendment: the ninth. The ninth amendment of the U.S. Constitution reads, “The enumeration of the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
In short, that means that no one can use their rights to take away anyone else’s rights.
When people talk about gun control, they aren’t talking about the second amendment. They’re talking about the ninth. The argument usually is not that guns are an inherent risk to human life, but instead that when they are, the right to bear arms disappears. If it is probable that someone’s right to bear arms will get in the way of someone else’s right to life, it is both reasonable and entirely constitutional to deny that person a gun.
When Captain Mark Kelly, a national leader in gun control activism, spoke at Augsburg’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum, and he focused on a particular piece of legislation that he believed would curb huge amounts of American gun violence: the halt of gun sales to anyone with a violent criminal history (most especially of domestic abuse) or what he called a “dangerous” mental illness. In his remarks, Capt. Kelly almost exclusively named these individuals as those who could be reasonably expected to forfeit their right to bear arms. Only those people whose right to bear arms would put their own or others’ lives at risk lose that right.
What is often the most frustrating about gun control debate is fear of “losing our guns.” But gun control along ninth amendment lines wouldn’t threaten to take away guns from anyone who doesn’t pose a serious threat of using them violently. The overwhelming majority of people would retain their right to bear arms.
Moreover, this is not a recent push for liberals to take away people’s rights: the second and ninth amendments were written in the same ink and ratified at the same second. This little constitutional loophole has been a part of the Bill of Rights as long as it has existed. Theoretically, Americans should have been prevented from gun violence by dangerous individuals from the beginning.
The right that needs to be discussed in the aftermath of violent tragedies like Las Vegas’ should not exclusively be the right to bear arms. Instead, we need to think about protecting the right to life. When arguing about what is constitutional and what is not, it needs to be remembered that these things work in conjunction with one another. The right to bear arms does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, it exists in a world where terrorism, mental illness and profound hatred exist. Gun control measures are absolutely necessary. The Constitution is the one telling us so.
This article first appeared in the Friday, November 10, 2017, Edition of The Echo.