In her recent opinion, “Now is the time to regulate the Second Amendment,” Kaylie McLaughlin responded to the recent tragedy in Las Vegas. She has “issues with the idea that we should have unrestricted access to guns,” and “with the modern interpretation of the Second Amendment.”
Of course, the Bill of Rights was not written until 13 years after 1776 and was ultimately ratified in December 1791. That discrepancy notwithstanding, McLaughlin is not incorrect. However, she overlooks a few key points.
Firstly, weapons capable of firing multiple rounds without reloading had been in development and use for centuries by the time the Second Amendment was ratified. For example, by 1650, the Kalthoff repeater had been invented. Though it was not produced en masse, it was used in the 1659 Siege of Copenhagen and the Scanian War of 1675; some models were equipped with 30-round magazines. Nine years before 1791, the Nock gun was produced. It could shoot seven rounds — at the same time.
Beyond obviously being philosophical and political giants of their time, the Founding Fathers were inventors, scientists and military masterminds. They were keenly interested in the latest and greatest. One must completely disregard centuries of firearm history to suggest that the authors of the Second Amendment were blind to the rapid advance of weapons technology. They were right in the middle of it.
Secondly, McLaughlin overlooks technological developments in other areas and how they might offer parallels.
For instance, in the digital age, speech that is protected by the First Amendment drives thousands of youths to suicide. Tweets can start wars.
McLaughlin’s second argument is that, unlike the First Amendment, regulations against the Second Amendment “don’t exist,” and that since she cannot “run around Manhattan topless,” there should be similarly stringent regulations on the right to bear arms.
She is correct in asserting that the First Amendment and the litigatory history surrounding it offer no protections for true threats, libel and some obscenities. However, she woefully omits the truly incredible broadness with which the First Amendment has been legally interpreted.
In United States v. Stevens, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment protects the production, sale and possession of “crush videos,” which, for example, may depict a newborn litter of chihuahuas being brutally flattened by a large rock that has been dropped on them from above.
The First Amendment protects vulgar protests at military funerals. Indeed, it even protects some speech that inadvertently drives others to suicide, or murder-suicide. McLaughlin may disagree that these things ought to be protected speech, but I suspect that if the Second Amendment were interpreted as loosely as the First Amendment has been, she would be even more passionate about regulating it than she lets on in her opinion piece. It is not.
In fact, McLaughlin’s claim that the Second Amendment is unregulated is largely detached from reality. For example, all who seek to purchase guns from dealers must pass a federal background check. Children cannot purchase firearms. Felons cannot own them.
Automatic firearms produced after 1986 are completely illegal. Interstate firearms transactions are heavily regulated by the Gun Control Act of 1968. The Undetectable Firearms Act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, prohibits the manufacture, sale and possession of firearms that are invisible to metal detectors. Seven states require licenses for all firearms purchases.
“Regulations against [the Second Amendment] don’t exist,” McLaughlin says. That is objectively false.
Third, McLaughlin asserts that semi-automatic rifles are not necessary for home defense, hunting or, in her words, “whatever else people do with guns.” Of course they are not. Theoretically, you can defend yourself, hunt and do “whatever else” with your fists.
Some people, especially elderly widows and single moms, may choose something a little more powerful to defend the places where they sleep. Specifically, AR-15s are frequently recommended for home defense since they are larger than pistols, they are easier to find in the dark and more accurate — especially if you are shaking with fear — and they offer better range for open, rural environments.
McLaughlin suggests that anyone who “needs” one for home defense should “consider moving.” This seems discourteous to me, and is rooted in a misunderstanding of how firearms are used in a way that is nearly as catastrophic as the phrase “whatever else people do with guns.”
McLaughlin’s opinion piece is misguided in many ways, sure, but her final paragraph strikes a different tone altogether.
“Stop saying that it was a senseless tragedy,” McLaughlin said.
I will not.
“Stop professing your thoughts and prayers,” McLaughlin said.
I will never.
Evan Steckler is a senior in architectural engineering and event coordinator for College Republicans at Kansas State. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.