GUNFIGHT—THE BATTLE OVER THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS IN AMERICA (2011) by Adam Winkle who is a professor at UCLA Law School specializing in Constitutional Law. His book is about the Supreme Court decision in Washington. DC vs Heller (2008); briefly put: does a person have a right to have a weapon for self defense?
On December 14, 2012–20 year old Adam Lanza killed his mother with three pistol gunshots to her head. He then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary School and using a Bushmaster .223 caliber– model XM15-E2S rifle with high capacity 30 round magazine shot his way into the locked front door. He immediately killed with his weapon the principal and the school psychologist. He then went on to kill with his Bushmaster .223 caliber– model XM15-E2S–20 children between age 5 -7. A total of 20 children and 6 adults were killed with this Bushmaster .223 caliber– model XM15-E2S; he fired off 154 rounds from his weapon in a little less than 5 minutes; he then committed suicide with one of his Glock pistols.
Adam Winkler’s book is germane to the recent discussion. He provides historical background for the 2nd Amendment, historical background for gun control, historical background of gun violence in America, historical background for weapons development, historical background for legal decisions re the 2nd Amendment. Regrettably, he does not provide a chapter devoted to the dry and not dramatic statistics about the number of murders yearly by gunfire in America [11.900], numbers of yearly justifiable homicides in self-defense with guns , numbers of yearly suicides by gunshot [20,000], number of children yearly killed by gunfire , the community most impacted with gun deaths [Black—death by gunfire is the leading cause of death in Black youth between age 15-25]. All of these statistics are readily available through the Center for Disease Control or FBI. So Justice Breyer—speaking from the Bench during oral arguments—says: “…that 80,000 to 100,000 people every year in the United States are killed or wounded in gun related homicides or crimes or accidents or suicides.” So a chapter of maybe 7 – 10 pages giving statistical background might have been more helpful than the snippets of statistics raised as found pertinent to his discussion on topic. One powerful statistic: anywhere from 250 million to 300 million guns in American hands—more guns per capita than any other nation. But compare the figure of 300 million to the yearly 100,000 gun injuries—well—it almost makes gun ownership safer than flying.
Winkler provides thumbnail sketches of the people and movements important to the gun debate—from the politicians, to the criminals, to the proponents and opponents. (And really—lunatic comes to mind with the author of “The Global War on Your Guns: Inside the U.N. Plan to Destroy the Bill of Rights.” Really—one wants to say—take your antipsychotic meds NOW and sign up for electroshock therapy—don’t delay. Be most especially worried about lunatics wearing three piece suits.)
Justice Scalia wrote the opinion for the 5-4 majority. Justice Scalia claims to be an ‘originalist’—that is to say a jurist who wants to decide a case based on the original intent of the Founding Fathers, ignoring that there is a huge difference—to put it mildly—between the zeitgeist of 1789 and 2011. Justice Scalia’s position should sound familiar—the Tea Party lives by that doctrine. Justice Scalia ‘originalist’ position: beyond the absurd, sheer applesauce, cannot be taken seriously, nothing short of preposterous—to use Justice Scalia’s favorite dismissives.
Winkler concludes that with this case, everybody came out a winner. The court affirmed that one could posses a weapon for self-defense; and Justice Scalia himself asserted that the State has responsibility to place limits on gun ownership in Part III of his decision: Syllabus: “2. Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons. Pp. 54–56”. (Source: Legal Information Institute, Cornel University.)
The horrendous deed of December 14, 2012 shattered the nation. No one can imagine what those families, neighbors, community of Newtown endure. The President rightfully cast gun control action as a moral imperative in response to the children and adult victims.—not a question of the 2nd Amendment prerogative. He signed executive orders which seemed an appropriate response for a solution to gun violence in America. Surprisingly, research in gun violence is not allowed by Congressional Mandate at the behest of the NRA—fearing such research would bring greater stricture on gun ownership; the President signed an executive order demanding research be conducted for the causes and prevention of gun violence. The Yahoo comments page was taken over by gun-control opponents in droves—shouting down—and creating profiles for the explicit purpose of making negative comments–with preponderance of numbers any supporters of gun control. The comments about the victims were oftentimes rude, crude, callous, and indifferent to the magnitude of the Newtown tragedy. Winkler addresses the ferocity of gun proponents—the Yahoo comments made the level of ferocity—and irrationality–a force to be reckoned with.
As someone else pointed out—Nancy Lanza, before December 14, would have been regarded as a ‘good guy’ with a gun; she never anticipated that her weapon would be used for purpose of evil. She obeyed the Connecticut Laws regarding registering her weapons, submitting to and passing a criminal and psychiatric background check. Many have asserted that the problem lies with the mentally ill owning guns—ignoring that Adam Lanza did not demonstrate any serious mental health issues. (Indeed, in a PBS Frontline program, acquaintances called him odd and nothing more—not delusional, not hearing voices, nor demonstrating any other psychiatric symptoms.)
Adam Lanza planned his rampage in his mind in detail. He could do this because he had physical possession of a weapon; he knew how to use the weapon, he had proficiency in its use. Physical possession of that weapon allowed him the murderous ideation. No weapon, no ideation to murder, no murder. It’s as simple as all that and as sad as all that.
Adam Winkler’s GUNFIGHT: THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS IN AMERICA gives a good read over the issues and trajectory of gun ownership and its law in America. In the presence of Newtown, the Supreme Court may give States greater leeway and allowance in establishing prohibitions regarding gun ownership.