I'll admit it – I'm a pessimist. More than that, I was beginning to think that our U.S. lawmakers, politicians, and everyone in between had lost their minds and America was destined to slide back into the Wild West era of gunfights in the streets. Unfortunately, my paranoia is warranted. Within the last five years we've witnessed the tragic loss of life and unspeakable violence of far too many mass shootings. The Orlando Night Club massacre. The San Bernardino mass shooting. The Washington Navy Yard shooting. The Charleston Church shooting. The Newtown School shooting.
I could keep going but it would just break all of our hearts again.
As citizens, the delicacy of our safety has become apparent: there is no place off limits to the destruction of gun violence. Worse, there seems to be such a divide among Americans — and our legislature — regarding gun ownership that it's easy to get the feeling that we're helplessly awaiting the next mass shooting. However, yesterday the Supreme Court shed a ray of hope when they declined to loosen restrictions created by Congress in 1996 that bar domestic abusers, convicted of assault or battery misdemeanors, from owning guns. Given the current political climate, I'll count that as a win.
The Supreme Court ruling came just days after the Senate turned down FOUR gun control laws. The rejections spurred House Democrats, led by Representative John Lewis to start a 25-hour sit-in for a gun control vote. Unfortunately, the vote never came.
This makes the Supreme Court case of two Maine men, who said their guilty pleas for hitting their partners should not disqualify them from gun ownership "because their prior conviction could have been based on reckless, rather than knowing or intentional, conduct and thus did not qualify as misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence," all the more interesting.
One of the men, Stephen Voisine pleaded guilty in 2003 to simple assault after slapping his girlfriend in the face while he was intoxicated. In 2009, an anonymous caller reported that Voisine had shot a bald eagle with a rifle. He was then convicted under the gun law. The other plaintiff, William Armstrong III, pled guilty to simple assault in 2002 after pushing his wife during an argument and leaving a "red mark."
Eight years later, police searching Armstrong's home for marijuana and discovered six firearms and ammunition. Their case made it all the way to the Supreme Court where in a 6-2 ruling, the justices ruled that Congress's definition of a "misdemeanor crime of violence" contains no exclusion for reckless behavior. Interestingly, both Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Sotomayor were the dissenting votes in the federal firearms case.
Although the Supreme Court ruling doesn't tighten gun laws, it also doesn't provide more lax laws either. That's a good thing.
However, I believe that we do need to start moving to much more strict gun laws. One of the goals of our constitutional rights was to "ensure domestic tranquility." Unfortunately, the current lack of gun control reduces tranquility of any kind, to a memory. Which, is why I believe that anyone who desires to own a gun should be subject to stringent training, mental health evaluation and licensing process. Those that wish to own semi-automatic or automatic weapons would be subject to even more stringent requirements and training.
I grew up in the country with several guns in the house. When I was in high school, I competed in a tetrathalon, a grueling competition that includes swimming, horseback riding, running and shooting. For holidays, my family sets up target practice and competes in air gun marksmanship competitions. For this reason, I support gun control. I know that the enjoyment of target practice can be had without the danger of a semi-automatic rifle.
Yes, gun ownership is our second amendment right, however the Constitution can't negate common sense. If a person isn't allowed to fill a seat next to me in economy class, I sure as hell don't want them owning a dangerous weapon. Same thing for those with documented criminal histories or serious mental health issues. This shouldn't have anything to do with politics.
You know how we can make America great again? By creating a country where kids can go to school without being worried about being murdered by a lunatic. Again, we're not talking about taking away the right of Americans to own guns. Whenever the issue of gun control comes up, I always think about our law enforcement officers and how terrible it must be for them knowing that on any given day they could be facing a mentally unstable person with deadly arsenal like the Orlando shooter. We're living in difficult times where our technology often surpasses our legislation. When the founding fathers declared our right to bear arms, they were talking about muskets and bayonets (an expert could likely get off 3 shots in a minute). Today, we're talking about AR-15 rifles, like the one Omar Mateen used in Orlando, that are capable of firing 600 rounds per minute.
This country shouldn't be afraid to make tougher laws to prevent these atrocities. After all, that's just common sense.