Mass Shootings &
Second Amendment Rights

There have been many mass shootings in America. “Sending thoughts and prayers…No words…Something must be done…,” America groans. Yada yada yada.

The real issue is, would America benefit from federal gun control, and, if so, what provisions would be most helpful and also constitutional?

No law would work perfectly to solve this problem. Opponents of gun control point out that there already are federal, state, and local gun laws, none of which have put an end to mass shootings, let alone all gun deaths. Criminals, including evil shooters, by definition do not follow laws; they steal guns, assemble illegal ghost guns, or obtain guns improperly through straw buyers and unlicensed sellers. Therefore, proposed laws mostly would affect law-abiding citizens, and gun laws will not get at the root causes of the problem — mental illness, societal and institutional breakdown, and the devaluation of life.

Opponents also have asserted — successfully — that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution absolutely protects the right to own and carry guns, and tens of millions of Americans enjoy exercising that right for sport or personal protection. 

Today, federally licensed dealers legally can sell a wide array of guns and ammunition to buyers who are at least 18 years old and pass background checks. Weapons are widely available through illegal channels and through private, unlicensed sales.

The governmental principles of freedom, law and justice, protecting the vulnerable, and limited government all are relevant here, along with the crucial leadership principle of peace.

Applying these principles, there are several things on which we think the vast majority of Americans (i.e., those who do not sell guns for a living and have no intention of shooting anyone) would agree: (1) there should be significant restrictions on who can buy and own guns, and any restrictions would be effective only if done at the national level; (2) licensing of gun sellers and registration of gun ownership in a comprehensive federal database will keep some guns out of the wrong hands; (3) presale background checks, waiting periods, and higher age restrictions, along with removal of guns from those who commit a felony or are mentally ill, all would be helpful; and (4) the military and police may need automatic weapons, but the rest of us do not.

Quentin thinks the optimal path forward politically is found in the four areas of consensus enumerated above, none of which infringes on Second Amendment rights. True, a new law based on these fundamental points would not be perfect and would not totally eliminate all problems. 

There is no perfect solution to mass shootings or gun violence generally, so we must look only for options that will bring progress. To paraphrase, perfect can be the enemy of better. We are looking for anything that will improve the current situation.