Kendrick Castillo is my hero.
Castillo was the 18-year-old high school student who charged a gunman to save the lives of his fellow students as the shooter opened fire in their high school literature class. Castillo lost his life to save the lives of others. He should not have lost his life attending high school literature just three days away from graduation.
Castillo should not have lost his life attempting to save and protect others because those who are placed in elected office to do just that, save and protect, have done nothing.
As the saying goes: Only in America.
No, I’m not talking about gun violence. Shootings occur all over the world: in schools, in places of worship, in hotels, in movie theaters.
What makes America different is that we have more shootings than any other nation and America is the only one that does not attempt to do something about them. Thoughts and prayers alone do not seem to be effective. Maybe some actions are needed. Yah think?
The recent mass shooting in a Mosque in New Zealand resulted in a ban on military-style weapons within a month. The Columbine High School massacre occurred some 20 years ago, and we are still relying on thoughts and prayers. So what can be done that is more useful to stem the wave of never-ending mass murders than the current antidote of thoughts and prayers.
As I mentioned in a previous column on the gun culture, the Newtown Action Alliance, which was established in the aftermath of the horrific mass murder of twenty small first and second graders in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, has identified numerous recommendations that will be a great deal more effective than merely thinking and praying.
Here are the recommendations which are well worth repeating from my earlier column. Moreover, each and every one of them is doable and necessary:
- Background checks on all gun sales.
- Close the Charleston loophole or “delayed denial” where federally licensed dealers can sell guns if three business days pass without a verdict from the FBI.
- Restrict and penalize firearm possession by or transfer to a person subject to a domestic violence protection order or a person (including dating partners) convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
- Prohibit firearm sale or transfer to and receipt or possession by an individual who has: (1) been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor hate crime, or (2) received from any court an enhanced hate crime misdemeanor sentence.
- Mandatory waiting period for gun purchases.
- Red flag/gun violence restraining order/extreme risk protection order to temporarily prohibit an individual deemed by a judge to pose a danger to self or others, from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition and allow law enforcement to remove any firearms or ammunition already in the individual’s possession.
- Handgun permitting, licensing, training and registration.
- Ban bump-fire stocks and other dangerous accessories.
- Ban future manufacture and sale of assault weapons, regulate existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and initiate a federal gun buyback program.
- Limits on high capacity magazines.
- Prohibit open carry.
- Make gun trafficking a federal crime.
- Repeal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) to eliminate the corporate gun industry’s special protection from civil justice law that no other industry enjoys.
- Fund government research on gun violence.
- Child access prevention/safe storage requirement.
- Provide resources for people with mental illness.
- Microstamped code on each bullet that links it to a specific gun.
- “Smart guns” with radio frequency identification (RFID) or biometric recognition (fingerprint) capability.
- Limit gun purchases to one gun per month to reduce trafficking and straw purchases.
- Require licensing for ammunition dealers.
- Enhance accountability of federally licensed firearms dealers.
- Digitize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) gun records.
- Raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21.
- Ban 3D and ghost guns.
- Prohibit weapons in schools and college campuses.
- Report lost and stolen guns.
It is extremely important to finally recognize the magnitude of the gun problem in America because until our elected officials feel the outrage of citizens, nothing will be done.
Among developed countries, the United States has by far the highest number of guns per every 100 people: 120 as compared to 15 in Australia, five in England/Wales and 35 in Canada (based on Small Arms Survey 2017).
According to CNN’s “Gun Violence Project,” more than 90 people in the U.S. die from gun violence every 24 hours.
Gun-related deaths are set to surpass car accidents as the leading cause of death of young people.
Add to this that, in many places across America, you have to be 13 years of age to legally purchase a lottery ticket while there is no age restriction for purchasing a gun. Maybe most compelling is that gun deaths in our country since Sandy Hook have far surpassed the deaths in Iraq. Looking around the world, gun homicides in Canada just a short time ago when this data was compiled was 184, in Japan 26, England and Wales combined 10, New Zealand five and in the U.S.A. 14,415.
The irony is that the Second Amendment to the Constitution which the NRA points to as the justification for unfettered access to guns – as well as the unfettered profits of the gun manufacturers who are the real constituency of the NRA – had almost nothing to do with individual gun ownership.
In drafting the Constitution in 1787, the founding fathers had some level of concern that, as Commander-in-Chief of the army, the position of the presidency, as outlined in Article 2, had the potential of regressing into a monarchy or dictatorship. If this concern sounds familiar, you have been following the Trump presidency.
To address this potential, in crafting the Constitution and its amendments, the founding fathers wanted to avoid a professional standing army in favor of an army comprised of the citizens of the new nation.
If you voted, you served; if you served, you voted. They believed that an army consisting of citizens would prevent the use of the army to support any abuse of power.
Accordingly, the Second Amendment to the Constitution was written: “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.” The Second Amendment was never designed or intended to provide uncontrolled access to weaponry to the individual. It wasn’t until the Heller Case that the Robert’s Supreme Court expanded the amendment to include gun ownership for the specific purpose of protecting the home.
Moreover, throughout the Constitution, the term “persons” is used when speaking to individual rights. In the Second Amendment, the term “people” is used to indicate a collective intent such as an army or “Militia.”
As a matter of fact, the very use of the term “arms” as in “present arms,” “arms for hostages,” etc. is an indication that the founders were speaking in military terms.
It is about time that we use the Second Amendment in its proper context and not as a basis for unlimited access to guns by individuals. Maybe, just maybe, if we, as citizens across this nation, begin to take a much more responsible and respectful approach to gun ownership, we might be able to stem the tide of the all too often misuse of deadly force by individuals who should in no way have easy access to deadly weapons.