When the Right to Bear Arms Trumps the Right to Life

Amidst the sorrow, fear and despair that I have experienced since Friday evening, anger is what has taken up most of my thoughts. Anger for each of those parents, anger for each of those students and anger for each and every one of us as we try to prevent this event from ruining our home away from home. Most of all, I am angry that our country has yet to figure it out. I am angry that so many Americans want to “protect” their right to guns when I want to protect my friends, family and loved ones from what we experienced this past weekend.

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” That is the Second Amendment. And do you know what came before it? The Declaration of Independence. The document that lays out the unalienable rights of each American citizen to be “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The right to life is an especially important part in there. I don’t see anything in the Second Amendment about the right of a civilian to own an assault weapon or the right to stockpile over 400 rounds of ammunition. When the Second Amendment was adopted in 1791, “the right to bear arms” back then meant a single-shot weapon that was loaded through the muzzle and fired by means of a flintlock, that little thing on those super old guns that creates a spark, which in turn ignites gunpowder. I don’t believe that the founding fathers had Glocks and AK-47s in mind when looking to ensure that civilians could protect themselves.

In 1996, after a decade in which 11 mass shootings occurred, the people of Australia were fed up with the lax gun regulations in their country and took action. Twelve days after 35 were killed and 23 wounded by a gunman, the conservative Prime Minister John Howard led the charge on enacting a ban on all automatic and semiautomatic weapons. Since then there have been zero mass shootings in Australia. Zero.

Our country is at a rate of 88.9 guns per 100 people — that’s ridiculous. Every day an average of 32 Americans are murdered with guns. Guns kept in homes are 22 times more likely to kill or injure their owner than they are to protect them. I’m not saying that our country needs to be rid of guns entirely; I understand that many people feel that they are truly safer with a gun in their home. But if there is no limit on the number of handguns you can purchase in California, how does that make sense? Why would I ever need more than one gun to protect myself? I only have two hands.

We all know that the actions of Elliot Rodger were not due to just one fault in the system. The stigma towards mental illness in our country needs to change. The unbelievable amount of misogyny that still exists in our country needs to change. Those are societal changes and they will take years to enact. But we can change one of the factors that led to the murder of six of our own right now. We can change the future. Automatic and semiautomatic weapons have no place in our homes. They are war machines; they were created to kill, not to protect. There is no reason that a civilian should have an assault weapon in their hands.

What happened on Friday was not fair. Six of our fellow classmates, friends and loved ones were taken from us. And it is going to happen again somewhere else. On another campus, in another movie theater, at another elementary school. If we don’t take action it will happen again. Richard Martinez, father of Chris Michaels-Martinez, told us on Tuesday that if our leaders refuse to do something, it falls into our laps. It is now our responsibility to prevent this from happening again. We have to stand up for those that we lost and we have to remember that mass shootings, as often as they occur, are not normal. We don’t have to live this way. We shouldn’t live this way. Sign the petitions, write to your politicians, make them listen to us. Not one more.
Mckinley Krongaus prefers to interpret the right to “bear arms” as the right to “bare arms.”

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, May 29, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students